Effects of predictable and unpredictable food restriction on the stress response in molting and non-molting European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2011 Nov;160(3):390-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2011.07.009. Epub 2011 Jul 23.


This study tested whether an ethologically relevant stressor, a three-week period of food restriction where food was unavailable for four hours a day, caused chronic stress in molting and non-molting captive European starlings. Although all birds increased weight during the Food Restriction period, only non-molting birds increased food intake. Morning baseline heart rates increased during the Food Restriction period and all birds showed a decrease in heart rate when food was absent from the cage. In non-molting birds, there were no differences in either baseline or stress-induced corticosterone (CORT) concentrations, whereas molting birds showed attenuated baseline CORT, stress-induced CORT, and fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels over the Food Restriction period. Although several parameters, such as increased morning heart rate, are consistent with chronic stress, the majority of these data suggest that restricting food availability is not chronically stressful. Furthermore, making the timing of food removal less predictable by randomizing when food was removed during the day did not enhance any of the above responses, but did alter the frequency of maintenance and feeding behaviors. In conclusion, starlings appear resistant to developing symptoms of chronic stress from repeated food restriction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Corticosterone / blood*
  • Eating
  • Europe
  • Food Deprivation*
  • Molting / physiology*
  • Starlings / metabolism
  • Starlings / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological*


  • Corticosterone