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Hormones And Behavior


While corticosterone (CORT) is often suggested to be an important hormone regulating processes necessary for avian migration, there has been no systematic assessment of CORT's role in migration. Prior to migration, birds increase fat stores and flight muscle size to prepare for the high energetic costs associated with long-distance flight. After attaining sufficient energetic stores, birds then make the actual decision to depart from their origin site. Once en route birds alternate between periods of flight and stopovers, during which they rest and refuel for their next bouts of endurance flight. Here, we evaluate three non-mutually exclusive hypotheses that have been proposed in the literature for CORT's role in migration. (1) CORT facilitates physiological preparations for migration [e.g. hyperphagia, fattening, and flight muscle hypertrophy]. (2) CORT stimulates departure from origin or stopover sites. (3) CORT supports sustained migratory travel. After examining the literature to test predictions stemming from each of these three hypotheses, we found weak support for a role of CORT in physiological preparation for migration. However, we found moderate support for a role of CORT in stimulating departures, as CORT increases immediately prior to departure and is higher when migratory restlessness is displayed. We also found moderate support for the hypothesis that CORT helps maintain sustained travel, as CORT is generally higher during periods of flight, though few studies have tested this hypothesis. We provide recommendations for future studies that would help to further resolve the role of CORT in migration.


Bird, Body condition, Departure, Fat, Flight, Glucocorticoid, Hyperphagia, Migratory restlessness, Physiological preparation, Stopover


This work is a preprint that is freely available courtesy of Elsevier.

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