Electrocardiography, heart rates, and heart weights of free-living birds

J Zoo Wildl Med. 2001 Mar;32(1):47-54. doi: 10.1638/1042-7260(2001)032[0047:EHRAHW]2.0.CO;2.


To examine the waveforms of electrocardiograms, cardiac rhythm, heart rates at rest and during excitement, and the rate of increase of heart rate, electrocardiograms were recorded with standard bipolar limb leads from 79 free-living birds, including 19 species. The heart weights and heart-to-body weight ratios were obtained from an additional 96 free-living birds, including 20 species. In the majority of the electrocardiograms, lead I was of low amplitudes for all waves except the P wave, and leads II and II were very similar to each other with a predominant S wave and a very short or elevated ST segment. The P wave was often superimposed on the T wave when the heart rate increased to 330 beats/min. Four types of arrhythmia were observed in 50 of the 79 birds (63.3%): 48 sinus arrhythmias, four sinus arrests, two atrial premature contractions, and one ventricular premature contraction. The resting heart rate was negatively associated with the rate of increase, suggesting that a bird with a low resting rate might be able to maintain a greater capacity to increase its heart rate than one with a high resting rate. A negative correlation on a bilogarithmic scale was obtained between the heart weight and the resting heart rate, indicating that a bird with a high heart weight had lower resting heart rate than a bird with a low heart weight. When the heart-to-body weight ratios of free-living birds were compared according to their motility, the ratios of more active birds were greater than those of less active ones.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / anatomy & histology
  • Animals, Wild / physiology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnosis
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / veterinary
  • Bird Diseases / diagnosis
  • Bird Diseases / physiopathology
  • Birds / anatomy & histology
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Body Weight
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Electrocardiography / veterinary*
  • Heart / anatomy & histology*
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Organ Size
  • Reference Values
  • Species Specificity