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Physiol Biochem Zool. 2002 Jul-Aug;75(4):386-95.

Seasonal metabolic acclimatization in mountain chickadees and juniper titmice.

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Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan 84322-5305, USA.


Mountain chickadees and juniper titmice from northern Utah were examined to determine metabolic and body-composition characteristics associated with seasonal acclimatization. These species use behavioral adaptations and nocturnal hypothermia, which reduce energetic costs. These adjustments could reduce the need for extensive metabolic adjustments typically found in small passerines that overwinter in cold regions. In addition, these species live at higher altitudes, which may also decrease metabolic acclimatization found in birds. Winter birds tolerated colder test temperatures than summer birds. This improved cold tolerance was associated with an increase in maximal thermogenic capacity or summit metabolism (M(sum)). Winter M(sum) exceeded summer M(sum) by 26.1% in chickadees and 16.2% in titmice. Basal metabolic rates (BMR) were also significantly higher in winter birds compared with summer birds. Pectoralis wet muscle mass increased 33.3% in chickadees and 24.1% in titmice in winter and paralleled the increased M(sum) and BMR. Dry mass of contour plumage increased in winter for both species and was associated with decreased thermal conductance in winter chickadees compared to summer chickadees. Chickadees and titmice show metabolic acclimatization similar to other temperate species.

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