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Journal Article

Are Avian Hematocrits Indicative of Condition? American Kestrels as a Model

Russell D. Dawson and Gary R. Bortolotti
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 61, No. 4 (Oct., 1997), pp. 1297-1306
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3802129
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3802129
Page Count: 10
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Are Avian Hematocrits Indicative of Condition? American Kestrels as a Model
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Abstract

Diseased animals or those in poor condition are known to have reduced hematocrits. Many investigators have assumed that hematocrit levels thus reflect condition and disease status of an animal. This study tested these assumptions by examining the relation between hematocrits of American kestrels (Falco sparverius) during several stages of the breeding season, and condition, prey abundance, and blood parasite load. We also examined the potential effects of a number of intrinsic and extrinsic influences on hematocrit. Hematocrits did not differ between the sexes, or between the pre-laying and incubation periods. Among females, hematocrit did not vary with the date of sampling, breeding chronology, prey abundance, condition, age, or molt, although hematocrit increased with ambient temperature during incubation. Hematocrit of males was not related to breeding chronology, prey abundance, condition, age, or molt. During incubation, male hematocrit increased with the date of sampling and ambient temperature. Hematocrits of both sexes declined with the time of day that the sample was taken, and increased with the level of infection of the blood parasite Haemoproteus. The use of hematocrits to assess the health and condition of clinically normal kestrels is therefore questionable, and given the positive association with parasite loads, may even lead to erroneous conclusions.

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