Stress proteins offer a measure of stress in birds at the cellular level that are an
alternative to the glucocorticoids. Stress proteins are not biased by handling stress, the
increase in stress proteins lasts longer than with other measures (e.g., corticosterone),
and, therefore, they may be a more appropriate measure of long-term or chronic stress.
However, caution should be practiced when using stress proteins because the level of
stress needed to elicit a response may be higher than with corticosterone. Stress
proteins have only recently been used to measure the response to competition, food
limitation, growth, and parasitism in birds. In other taxa, the stress proteins have been
used to measure genetic stress, temperature, toxins, UV radiation, and physical activity.
Stress proteins increase the options available to avian ecologists for understanding how
avian species respond to changes in the environment.