Validation of a Fecal Glucocorticoid Metabolite Assay to Assess Stress in the Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus)


Correspondence to: Anna M. Young, Department of Biology, MSC 3AF, P.O. Box 30001, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003. E-mail:


The budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) is a small parrot native to Australia that is commonly held in zoos, laboratories, and private homes. Assessment of budgerigar stress levels would aid welfare monitoring and improve our understanding of their biology. Analyzing fecal glucocorticoid metabolites provides a noninvasive method to measure stress levels in birds. For this method to be reliable, the antibody to be used in an immunoassay must be carefully selected for each species, and validation must be performed. A common limitation in many existing assays is the inability to accurately detect variable fecal glucocorticoid metabolites in minute quantities of feces, requiring small samples to be combined. We have developed a double antibody radioimmunoassay protocol based on a commercially available 125I-corticosterone radioimmunoassay kit for use in detecting fecal glucocorticoid metabolites in small quantities (<20 mg) of budgerigar droppings. The assay was validated pharmacologically with an adrenocorticotropic hormone challenge and with oral administration of corticosterone. Our validation has demonstrated our assay is both sensitive and a reliable approach to noninvasive monitoring of stress in budgerigars. Zoo Biol. 32:112-116, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.