Effects of electromagnetic fields on photophasic circulating melatonin levels in American kestrels.
Birds reproduce within electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from transmission lines. Melatonin influences physiologic and behavioral processes that are critical to survival, and melatonin has been equivocally suppressed by EMFs in mammalian species. We examined whether EMFs affect photophasic plasma melatonin in reproducing adult and fledgling American kestrels (Falco sparverius), and whether melatonin was correlated with body mass to explain previously reported results. Captive kestrel pairs were bred under control or EMF conditions for one (short-term) or two (long-term) breeding seasons. EMF exposure had an overall effect on plasma melatonin in male kestrels, with plasma levels suppressed at 42 days and elevated at 70 days of EMF exposure. The similarity in melatonin levels between EMF males at 42 days and controls at 70 days suggests a seasonal phase-shift of the melatonin profile caused by EMF exposure. Melatonin was also suppressed in long-term fledglings, but not in short-term fledglings or adult females. Melatonin levels in adult males were higher than in adult females, possibly explaining the sexually dimorphic response to EMFs. Melatonin and body mass were not associated in American kestrels. It is likely that the results are relevant to wild raptors nesting within EMFs. (+info)
Isolation of West Nile virus from mosquitoes, crows, and a Cooper's hawk in Connecticut.
West Nile (WN) virus, a mosquito-transmitted virus native to Africa, Asia, and Europe, was isolated from two species of mosquitoes, Culex pipiens and Aedes vexans, and from brain tissues of 28 American crows, Corvus brachyrhynchos, and one Cooper's hawk, Accipiter cooperii, in Connecticut. A portion of the genome of virus isolates from four different hosts was sequenced and analyzed by comparative phylogenetic analysis. Our isolates from Connecticut were similar to one another and most closely related to two WN isolates from Romania (2.8 and 3.6 percent difference). If established in North America, WN virus will likely have severe effects on human health and on the health of populations of birds. (+info)
Habitat loss and raptor predation: disentangling long- and short-term causes of red grouse declines.
The number of red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) shot in the UK has declined by 50% during the 20th century This decline has coincided with reductions in the area of suitable habitat and recoveries in the populations of some avian predators. Here we use long-term records of shooting bags and a large-scale manipulation of raptor density to disentangle the effects of habitat loss and raptor predation on grouse populations. The numbers of grouse harvested on the Eskdale half of Langholm Moor in southern Scotland declined significantly during 1913-1990 and grouse bags from the whole moor from 1950 to 1990 exhibited an almost identical but non-significant trend. Hen harriers (Circus cyaneus) and peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) were absent or bred at low densities on this moor throughout this period but heather-dominant vegetation declined by 48% between 1948 and 1988. Harrier and peregrine breeding numbers on Langholm Moor increased to high levels following protection in 1990 whilst grouse density and grouse bags declined year after year until shooting was abandoned in 1998. The prediction of a peak in grouse bags on Langholm Moor in 1996 based on the patterns of bags during 1950-1990 was supported by the observed peaks in 1997 on two nearby moors with few raptors which formerly cycled in synchrony with Langholm Moor. This study demonstrates that, whilst long-term declines in grouse bags were most probably due to habitat loss, high levels of raptor predation subsequently limited the grouse population and suppressed a cycle. This study thus offers support to theoretical models which predict that generalist predators may suppress cycles in prey populations. (+info)
Recovery and identification of West Nile virus from a hawk in winter.
West Nile virus was recovered from the brain of a red-tailed hawk that died in Westchester County, N.Y., in February 2000. Multiple foci of glial cells, lymphocytes, and a few pyknotic nuclei were observed in the brain. Three to 4 days after inoculation of Vero cells with brain homogenates, cytopathic changes were detected. The presence of West Nile virus antigen in fixed cells or cell lysates was revealed by fluorescent antibody testing or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, respectively. Furthermore, Reverse transcriptase-PCR with primers specific for the NS3 gene of West Nile virus resulted in an amplicon of the expected size (470 bp). Electron microscopy of thin sections of infected Vero cells revealed the presence of viral particles approximately 40 nm in diameter, within cytoplasmic vesicles. The demonstration of infection with the West Nile virus in the dead of the winter, long after mosquitoes ceased to be active, is significant in that it testifies to the survival of the virus in the region beyond mosquito season and suggests another route of transmission: in this case, prey to predator. (+info)
Genetics, local environment and health as factors influencing plasma carotenoids in wild American kestrels (Falco sparverius).
Carotenoids are important as pigments for bright coloration of animals, and as physiologically active compounds with a wide array of health-related functions. Carotenoid-dependent coloration may have evolved as a signal to conspecifics; however, factors that may limit availability of carotenoids are poorly known. We investigated how the acquisition of carotenoids may be constrained by availability in the environment, diet, genetic make-up and health status of wild American kestrels (Falco sparverius). Plasma concentrations of siblings at the time of fledging showed a high degree of resemblance; however, a cross-fostering experiment revealed that variance was largely explained by nest of rearing, rather than nest of origin, thus indicating a low genetic component. A multivariate analysis of attributes of nestlings (sex, size, plasma proteins, immune function), parental reproduction (laying date, clutch size) and rearing conditions (brood size, size hierarchy, nestling mortality) showed only a small significant effect of leucocyte differentials on carotenoid concentrations of nestlings. A strong environmental effect on plasma carotenoids was demonstrated by levels of adult kestrels being correlated within mated pairs, and having a significant association with the abundance of voles, the primary prey species, per territory. (+info)
Yolk androgens reduce offspring survival.
Females may favour some offspring over others by differential deposition of yolk hormones. In American kestrels (Falco sparverius), we found that yolks of eggs laid late in the sequence of a clutch had more testosterone (T) and androstenedione (A4) than yolks of first-laid eggs. To investigate the effects of these yolk androgens on nestling 'fitness', we injected both T and A4 into the yolks of first-laid eggs and compared their hatching time, nestling growth and nestling survival with those of first-laid eggs in which we injected vehicle as a control. Compared to controls, injection of T and A4 at a dose intended to increase their levels to those of later-laid eggs delayed hatching and reduced nestling growth and survival rates. Yolk androgen treatment of egg 1 had no effect on survival of siblings hatching from subsequently laid eggs. The adverse actions of yolk androgen treatment in the kestrel are in contrast to the favourable actions of yolk T treatment found previously in canaries (Serinus canaria). Additional studies are necessary in order to determine whether the deposition of yolk androgens is an adaptive form of parental favouritism or an adverse by-product of endocrine processes during egg formation. Despite its adaptive significance, such 'transgenerational' effects of steroid hormones may have helped to evolutionarily shape the hormonal mechanisms regulating reproduction. (+info)
Gliding flight: drag and torque of a hawk and a falcon with straight and turned heads, and a lower value for the parasite drag coefficient.
Raptors - falcons, hawks and eagles in this study - such as peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) that attack distant prey from high-speed dives face a paradox. Anatomical and behavioral measurements show that raptors of many species must turn their heads approximately 40 degrees to one side to see the prey straight ahead with maximum visual acuity, yet turning the head would presumably slow their diving speed by increasing aerodynamic drag. This paper investigates the aerodynamic drag part of this paradox by measuring the drag and torque on wingless model bodies of a peregrine falcon and a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) with straight and turned heads in a wind tunnel at a speed of 11.7 m s(-)(1). With a turned head, drag increased more than 50 %, and torque developed that tended to yaw the model towards the direction in which the head pointed. Mathematical models for the drag required to prevent yawing showed that the total drag could plausibly more than double with head-turning. Thus, the presumption about increased drag in the paradox is correct. The relationships between drag, head angle and torque developed here are prerequisites to the explanation of how a raptor could avoid the paradox by holding its head straight and flying along a spiral path that keeps its line of sight for maximum acuity pointed sideways at the prey. Although the spiral path to the prey is longer than the straight path, the raptor's higher speed can theoretically compensate for the difference in distances; and wild peregrines do indeed approach prey by flying along curved paths that resemble spirals. In addition to providing data that explain the paradox, this paper reports the lowest drag coefficients yet measured for raptor bodies (0.11 for the peregrine and 0.12 for the red-tailed hawk) when the body models with straight heads were set to pitch and yaw angles for minimum drag. These values are markedly lower than value of the parasite drag coefficient (C(D,par)) of 0.18 previously used for calculating the gliding performance of a peregrine. The accuracy with which drag coefficients measured on wingless bird bodies in a wind tunnel represent the C(D,par) of a living bird is unknown. Another method for determining C(D,par) selects values that improve the fit between speeds predicted by mathematical models and those observed in living birds. This method yields lower values for C(D,par) (0.05-0.07) than wind tunnel measurements, and the present study suggests a value of 0.1 for raptors as a compromise. (+info)
The deep fovea, sideways vision and spiral flight paths in raptors.
Raptors - falcons, hawks and eagles in this study - have two regions of the retina in each eye that are specialized for acute vision: the deep fovea and the shallow fovea. The line of sight of the deep fovea points forwards and approximately 45 degrees to the right or left of the head axis, while that of the shallow fovea also points forwards but approximately 15 degrees to the right or left of the head axis. The anatomy of the foveae suggests that the deep fovea has the higher acuity. Several species of raptors in this study repeatedly moved their heads among three positions while looking at an object: straight, with the head axis pointing towards the object; or sideways to the right or left, with the head axis pointing approximately 40 degrees to the side of the object. Since raptors do not rotate their eyes noticeably in the sockets, these movements presumably cause the image of the object to fall on the shallow and deep foveae. The movements occurred approximately every 2 s on average in hawks and falcons, and approximately every 5 s in bald eagles. The proportion of time that the raptors spent looking straight or sideways at an object depended on how far away the object was. At a distances closer than 8 m, they spent more time looking at the object straight, but as the distance increased to 21 m, they spent more time looking at it sideways. At distances of 40 m or more, raptors looked sideways at the object 80 % or more of the time. This dependence of head position on distance suggests that raptors use their more acute sideways vision to look at distant objects and sacrifice acuity for stereoscopic binocular vision to look at close objects. Having their most acute vision towards the side causes a conflict in raptors such as falcons, which dive at prey from great distances at high speeds: at a speed of 70 m s(-)(1), turning their head sideways to view the prey straight ahead with high visual acuity may increase aerodynamic drag by a factor of 2 or more and slow the raptor down. Raptors could resolve this conflict by diving along a logarithmic spiral path with their head straight and one eye looking sideways at the prey, rather than following the straight path to the prey with their head turned sideways. Although the spiral path is longer than the straight path, a mathematical model for an 'ideal falcon' shows that the falcon could reach the prey more quickly along the spiral path because the speed advantage of a straight head more than compensates for the longer path. (+info)