Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bird 'Breathalyzer' Helps Assess Migratory Diet

Date:
November 25, 2003
Source:
University Of Rhode Island
Summary:
While breathalyzers help police crack down on drunk driving, a similar new device is helping a University of Rhode Island graduate student analyze the dietary changes of migrating songbirds.

KINGSTON, R.I. -- November 24, 2003 -- While breathalyzers help police crack down on drunk driving, a similar new device is helping a University of Rhode Island graduate student analyze the dietary changes of migrating songbirds.

Related Articles


Just as human breathalyzers measure an individual's blood-alcohol level, David Podlesak says that his bird breathalyzer measures the "carbon signature" of a bird's last meal.

"We measure the ratio of the isotopes of carbon 12 to carbon 13, and this carbon signature in their breath can tell us what the bird ate earlier in the day," said the 36-year-old Wakefield resident who is nearing completion of his doctorate.

Podlesak is the first to adapt and use the bird breathalyzer on small songbirds and to verify that the measurements are accurate. The device was created recently by Kent Hatch at Brigham Young University for use with pigeons.

The birds breathe into a small mask connected to a balloon filled with pure oxygen. As the bird inhales the oxygen, it exhales carbon dioxide, replacing the oxygen in the balloon with carbon dioxide within one minute. The carbon dioxide is then analyzed for its carbon signature.

This carbon signature slowly makes its way from the bird's breath to its blood and eventually into its feathers. Podlesak is the first to use carbon signatures in different tissues from the same bird to create a dietary timeline for migrating birds.

"The signature in the feather tells us what the bird ate on its breeding grounds a month or two ago; the signature in its red blood cells tells what it ate within the last two or three weeks; and the signature in its plasma indicates what it ate two or three days ago," Podlesak said. "If the signature is different between its feathers and its breath, that says that the bird ate something different or changed its diet and is using a different resource to fatten up on migration."

That's an important distinction, according to Podlesak. "If birds are looking for different foods while they're migrating -- maybe something that has more proteins or more fats -- then we need to make sure that those resources are available at popular migratory stopover sites."

Podlesak's research is based on birds caught on Block Island, R.I., one of the major sites on the East Coast where birds stop to feed during their southward migration each fall. He captures yellow-rumped warblers, white-throated sparrows, ruby crowned kinglets, golden crowned kinglets and gray catbirds in nets, and takes breath, blood and feather samples before releasing the birds back into the wild.

His results so far have been insightful and have raised additional questions. Yellow rumped warblers, for instance, are known to primarily eat bayberry on migration. But in each of the last two years, Podlesak caught a number of warblers that ate something very different than was expected. He wonders if the birds stopped somewhere out of the ordinary or if there is an unknown migratory stopover site that provides the birds with an unusual diet.

Podlesak also discovered that some white-throated sparrows switched their diet during migration from insects and berries to corn, suggesting that the birds ate at bird feeders. This raises questions about the importance of feeders to the birds as they migrate. Podlesak hopes to answer questions about both species with additional research. Funding for his research comes from the National Science Foundation, the URI Agriculture Experiment Station, Sigma Xi, and The Nature Conservancy, which is protecting the coastal scrub habitat on Block Island where Podlesak conducts his field work.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Rhode Island. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Rhode Island. "Bird 'Breathalyzer' Helps Assess Migratory Diet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 November 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031125071321.htm>.
University Of Rhode Island. (2003, November 25). Bird 'Breathalyzer' Helps Assess Migratory Diet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031125071321.htm
University Of Rhode Island. "Bird 'Breathalyzer' Helps Assess Migratory Diet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031125071321.htm (accessed January 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Aquaponics Turn Suburban Industrial Park Into Farmland: Hume

Aquaponics Turn Suburban Industrial Park Into Farmland: Hume

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Ancient techniques of growing greens with fish and water are well ahead of Toronto bylaws. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chihuahua Sleeps on Top of Great Dane

Chihuahua Sleeps on Top of Great Dane

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) As this giant Great Dane lays down for bedtime he accompanied by an adorable companion. Watch a tiny Chihuahua jump up and prepare to sleep on top of his friend. Now that&apos;s a pretty big bed! Credit to &apos;emma_hussey01&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Madagascar Locust Plague Could Mean Famine For Millions

Madagascar Locust Plague Could Mean Famine For Millions

Newsy (Jan. 27, 2015) The Food and Agriculture Organization says millions could face famine in Madagascar without more funding to finish locust eradication efforts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

Shark Bite Victim Making Amazing Recovery

AP (Jan. 27, 2015) A Texas woman who lost more than five pounds of flesh to a shark in the Bahamas earlier this month could be released from a Florida hospital soon. Experts believe she was bitten by a bull shark while snorkeling. (Jan. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins