The effects of Migratory Flight on Hematologic Parameters in Northern Bald Ibises ( Geronticus Eremita)

Stanclova, G.; Schwendenwein, I.; Merkel, O.; Kenner, L.; Dittami, J.; Fritz, J.; Scope, A.

Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine Official Publication of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians 48(4): 1154-1164


ISSN/ISBN: 1042-7260
PMID: 29297805
DOI: 10.1638/2016-0258.1
Accession: 065581497

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Under the project of "Human-Led Migration," the authors had the unique opportunity to accompany hand-raised northern bald Iibises (NBIs; Geronticus eremita) during migration, which occurred in stages from Bavaria, Germany, to southern Tuscany, Italy. The aim of this study was to investigate the immediate effects of flight, with respect to flight duration, and the more delayed recovery effects on hematologic variables. A total of 31 birds were sampled. Blood samples were taken immediately before takeoff, after landing, and 1 day after the flight. Hematocrit was determined and blood smears were prepared to estimate the total white blood count (tWBC) with leukocyte concentrations (absolute [abs.]) and differential blood cell count (%). Postflight, significant decreases in hematocrit, tWBC, lymphocytes (abs., %), heterophils (abs.), eosinophils (abs., %), and monocytes (abs.) were observed. In contrast, heterophils (%), basophils (%), and the heterophil/lymphocyte (H/L) ratio increased significantly. With increasing flight duration, the H/L ratio increased further. One day postflight, there were still significant decreases in tWBC, lymphocytes (abs.), and eosinophils (abs., %) and significant increases in heterophils (%) and the H/L ratio. The hematocrit dropped even further. These data show that the decrease of tWBC is mainly caused by the lymphocyte fraction and that NBIs need more than 1 day to reverse the postflight changes in some hematologic values. Hematocrit changes postflight and on the recovery day are most likely to be explained by hemodynamics and the metabolic and hormonal changes caused by flight. The hematologic changes postflight in NBIs were largely consistent with those of other birds, but they differed from humans and mammals postexercise mainly in the levels of tWBC, heterophils (matching neutrophils in mammals), and lymphocytes.