The Raptor Center (TRC) is collaborating with Matthew Bonner, PhD, research scientist at Medtronic, Inc., on creating a physiological way to measure stress in raptors. The local company has lent TRC implantable cardiac monitors (“Reveal Linq ICM”) that birds can also wear externally. Heart rate can be an indicator of stress, but there is currently no noninvasive way to measure a raptor’s heart rate unless the bird is in hand, and handling often elevates stress levels (and thus heart rates) in wild raptors. The new monitors allow TRC to measure a raptor’s heart rate when the bird is resting or exposed to different stimuli in its housing environment. The clinic is using the monitors diagnostically with its patients. Then, TRC will plan a research project on using heart rate as an indicator of stress in education raptors. TRC has already identified where on the body to place the monitor, both to get a good signal and to prevent the birds from removing it. One bird kept a monitor on for two weeks, and its heart rate was highly variable. The new project could help measure the welfare of raptors under human care for educational programming and lead to updated protocols for training and management.
TRC and Medtronic collaborate to measure stress in raptors