Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Dr. Scott A. MacDougall-Shackleton


Climate change has been linked to an increasing frequency of inclement weather and winter storms. As such, it is important to understand the effects changing weather patterns have on avian species. I investigated the effects of recurrent inclement winter weather cues on glucocorticoid hormones and behaviour of a native Canadian songbird, white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis). I used a hypobaric climatic wind tunnel to simulate storms by altering barometric pressure and temperature accordingly, and measured behavioural responses, body composition, and baseline corticosterone levels in birds exposed, or not exposed, to weekly simulated storms. After environmental manipulations, experimental birds had significantly higher fat and lean masses. Baseline corticosterone levels decreased over time in both groups, and time spent at food cups increased over time in both groups as well. Thus, although manipulations did not have a detectable effect on baseline corticosterone, it did affect body composition. This research provides novel experimental evidence that birds detect changing weather patterns and respond appropriately, and indicates that repeated exposure to inclement weather cues directly affects birds’ energy reserves.