Measurement of corticosterone has become a useful tool for assessing the response of individuals to ecological stressors of interest. Enhanced corticosterone levels can promote survival of stressful events; however, in situations where a stressor persists and corticosterone levels remain elevated, the adrenocortical response can be detrimental. A potential ecological stressor for wild birds is parasitism by ectoparasites. We studied the stress response of 11-23-day-old brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) nestlings by measuring plasma corticosterone levels in relation to the presence of the soft tick Carios capensis at two colonies in South Carolina in 2005. We expected to see higher baseline and stress-induced levels of corticosterone for parasitized chicks compared to those nestlings with no ticks. Although nestlings mounted a response to capture stress, tick category was not associated with corticosterone levels at either colony. Our results appear to contrast those of previous studies and indicate that the adrenocortical response of the host is likely dependent on the type of ectoparasite and the degree of infestation. ?? 2009 Elsevier Inc.
Additional publication details
Stress response of brown pelican nestlings to ectoparasite infestation