Development of parameters influencing blood oxygen carrying capacity in the welcome swallow and fairy martin Academic Article uri icon


  • Welcome swallow (Hirundo neoxena) and fairy martin (Petrochelidon ariel) nestlings develop relatively slowly. They exceed adult mass early in development, then lose weight and fledge at about adult mass, i.e. have a mass-overshoot-recession (Mor) growth profile. Development of parameters influencing blood oxygen carrying capacity (O2Cap) was documented to determine if O2Cap also reached a plateau substantially before fledging or increased continuously throughout nestling development. Hematocrit (Hct), erythrocyte count (RBC) and whole blood haemoglobin (Hb) increased 1.8- to 2.8-fold, so that O2Cap doubled during development in both species. Increase in Hct, Hb and RBC was not continuous, peak values occurring well before fledging, in contrast to passerines with standard growth profiles in which the increase occurs throughout nestling development and peak values occur at fledging. However, the timing of O2Cap increase differed from that in some other Mor species (e.g. shearwaters). Mean erythrocyte volume (MCV) decreased linearly throughout development by 30-41%, but mean erythrocyte haemoglobin content (MCH) remained constant, so that mean erythrocyte haemoglobin concentration (MCHC) increased linearly 1.3- to 1.5-fold. Possible reasons for the apparent differences in the timing of O2Cap increase between rapidly and slowly growing altricial species and among MOR species are discussed.

publication date

  • April 2006