Many avian species reduce their body temperature (T(b)) to conserve energy during periods of inactivity, and we recently characterized how ambient temperature (T(a)) and nutritional stress interact with one another to influence physiologically controlled hypothermic responses in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). In the present study, we examined how the fatty acid (FA) composition of the diet influences the FA composition of phospholipids in major organs and how these affect controlled hypothermic responses and metabolic rates in fasted birds. For 5 weeks prior to fasting, quail were fed a standard diet and gavaged each morning with 0.7 ml of water (control), or a vegetable oil comprising saturated fatty acids (SFA; coconut oil), or unsaturated fatty acids (UFA; canola oil). Birds were then fasted for 4 days at a T(a) of 15°C. We found that, while fasting, both photophase and scotophase T(b) decreased significantly more in the SFA treatment group than in the control group; apparently the former down-regulated their T(b) set point. This deeper hypothermic response was correlated with changes in the phospholipid composition of the skeletal muscle and liver, which contained significantly more oleic acid (18:1) and less arachidonic acid (20:4), respectively. Our data imply that these two FAs may be associated with thermoregulation.