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What can we learn about stress from birds?

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“Stress is a common part of modern life, and everyone has experienced its negative effects. Many people even suffer health impacts from chronic stress. So why do we stress out when facing challenges? Research in birds is helping us to discover when natural selection favors a strong stress response, and when it is better to stay calm.”

Stress responses aren’t unique to humans; they’re shared by almost all animals. Learn more about human stress and what’s going on with our bodies when we respond to challenges. This animated video based on research by Cornell University professor Maren Vitousek and her lab explains What Can We Learn About Stress From Birds.

bird scared by predator
A key segment from the video:

“In vertebrates, stress responses are coordinated by hormones called glucocorticoids. When an animal perceives a stressor, a brain region called the hypothalamus sends a signal to the adrenal glands to release hormones.

“These hormones then enter the bloodstream, and travel throughout the body. Along the way, they find and bind to receptors located on many different tissues throughout the body. By binding at these receptors, hormones turn on or off the expression of genes. This can change many processes in the body, and even change how an animal behaves…”

which bird will survive?

“These kinds of changes help us to cope effectively with major threats to survival—like getting out of the way of a predator. But while this kind of response is important when facing challenges, activating it too often, too strongly, or at the wrong time can be costly. That’s because during a stress response, energy and resources are devoted to coping with the immediate threat instead of other important things like caring for offspring or searching for food. Over time, responding to many brief challenges can cause an individual to become chronically stressed.”

bird biology
Explore Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Academy.

Then watch these handpicked video selections:
How to keep calm under pressure: 3 quick tips from BBC Ideas
• How to deal with anxiety from change and how to be at peace with the unknown
• How to transform nervous feelings into positive energy
Square Roots, an animated short about information overload

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