Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

James T. Anderson

Committee Co-Chair

Hillar Klandorf


Using pest species in initial studies of pentosidine (Ps) aging research for birds may be the catalyst to discovering more effective population control strategies for pest, invasive, and hard to manage birds. Pentosidine is an irreversible, stable, fluorescent, collagen cross-link, created through the Maillard reaction, which has been found to accumulate throughout the lifetime of an organism in various body parts such as skin, lens crystalline, and dura matter. Pentosidine assays are more accurate at determining the age of adult birds in comparison to plumage coloration, eye and mouth color, feather wear, and molt sequences due to the discovery that Ps accumulates with age in the skin of birds. Past studies, however, have only taken place on deceased birds. To be considered a more generally useful tool for wildlife management studies, a procedure to obtain skin samples from living birds is needed. The objective of this project was to develop a minimally invasive sampling technique to age live birds through Ps analysis by (1) determining if differences exist in Ps concentration between the breast and patagium of black vultures ( Coragyps atratus), monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus), and double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), (2) determining if differences exist in Ps concentration of 6 mm2 and 20 mm2 skin samples, and (3) determining if healing rates differ between the breast and patagium and between wounds closed with tissue glue and wounds closed with sutures. Pentosidine concentrations were similar between the breast (x¯ = 8.9 pmol/mg collagen, SE = 0.55) and patagium (x¯ = 8.9 pmol/mg collagen, SE = 0.51) of black vultures (P = 0.97) as well as the breast (x¯ = 11.2 pmol/mg collagen, SE = 1.10) and patagium (x¯ = 10.6 pmol/mg collagen, SE = 1.10) of deceased double-crested cormorants (P = 0.10). Pentosidine, however, was significantly higher in the breast (x¯ = 15.9 pmol/mg collagen, SE = 1.30) than the patagium (x¯ = 11.5 pmol/mg collagen, SE = 1.10) of monk parakeets (P < 0.0001). The Ps concentration was marginally higher in 6 mm2 skin samples (x¯ = 12.6 pmol/mg collagen, SE = 1.19) when compared to 20 mm2 skin samples (x¯ = 11.3 pmol/mg collagen, SE = 1.23) of cormorants (P = 0.02). Four new age curves were developed for cormorants (our linear breast skin age curve, our curvilinear breast skin age curve, our linear patagial skin age curve, and our curvilinear patagial skin age curve) and compared to the original Fallon age curve. Age estimates and actual ages for cormorant breast and patagial skins were found to be similar when using our linear and curvilinear breast and patagial skin age curves, but there were significant differences between actual and estimated ages for breast and patagial skin when using the Fallon age curve (P < 0.0001 and P < 0.0001 respectively). The mean estimated ages for all 5 age curves were found to be accurate to within approximately 1½ years (17.4 months). For 6 mm 2 skins, there was a marginal difference between real and estimated age when using our curvilinear patagial curve (P = 0.04), but real and estimated ages were similar for 6 mm2 skins using our linear patagial curve and 20 mm2 skins using our linear and curvilinear patagial curve. The mean estimated ages for the 2 age curves were found to be accurate to within approximately 2½ years (28.3 months). Seven living cormorants were caught at Bluff Lake, part of Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, and were used to test the live sampling protocol. After a 6 mm2 biopsy was removed from the breast and patagium, the birds had their wounds closed with either tissue glue (n = 3) or sutures (n = 4). Wounds closed with tissue glue ( x¯ = 14.5 days, SE = 1.12) healed significantly faster than those closed with sutures (x¯ = 17.3 days, SE = 0.66) (P = 0.0003) but the healing rate was similar for the breast (x¯ = 15.9 days, SE = 1.36) and patagium (x¯ = 15.8 days, SE = 1.85) (P = 0.79). Our finding is that live sampling can be safely done for live birds. Our recommendations are to live sample birds from the patagium with a 6 mm2 biopsy punch and to close the wounds with tissue glue. Use of this technique could provide insight into senescence, reproductive success, and behavioral changes for different adult age classes as well as improve management strategies for pest and endangered/threatened species.