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Becky with Puffin

Rebecca Holberton Ph.D



University of Maine

School of Biology and Ecology

Room 221 Murray Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5751





Becky & Tony w/ ATPU

Research Interests: the endocrine basis of bird ecology and behavior; reproductive biology, bird migration and conservation

My work integrates behavior, physiology and ecology using birds as a model system in which to understand how external and internal factors affect individual survivorship and reproduction throughout the annual cycle.  My current work focuses on how birds meet challenges to their energy demand, with particular emphasis on the behavioral and physiological aspects of gonadal and adrenal steroid hormones and their associated pathways.  While much of my work focuses on the interaction between environmental factors (e.g., weather, food availability and habitat quality) and physiological constraints during the migratory period, I am interested in learning how success during each stage of the annual cycle can be influenced by activities during the other stages.  Much of my work is applicable to conservation concerns by attempting to discover the ecological and physiological constraints experienced by many animal populations today.


Tonra, C.M., Marra, P.P. and Holberton, R.L. 2011. Migration phenology and winter habitat quality are related to circulating androgen in a long-distance migratory bird. Journal of Avian Biology 42:397-404.

Tonra, C.M., Marra, P.P. and Holberton, R.L. 2011. Early elevation of testosterone advances migratory preparation in a songbird. Journal of Experimental Biology 214: 2761-2767.

Angelier, F. Tonra, C.M., Holberton, R.L. and Marra, P.P. 2011. Short-term changes in body condition in relation to habitat and rainfall abundance in American redstarts, Setophaga ruticilla, during the non-breeding season. Journal of Avian Biology 42:335-341.

Angelier, F., Ballentine, B. Holberton, R.L., Marra, P.P. and Greenberg, R. 2011. What drives variation in the corticosterone stress response between subspecies?: a common garden experiment of Swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana). Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24: 1160-1392.

Covino, K.M. and Holberton, R.L. 2011. The influence of energetic condition on flight initiation and orientation of migratory songbirds in the Gulf of Maine region. The Auk:313-320.

Wilson, C.M., Joos, R. and Holberton, R.L. in review. A comparative study of the nesting biology and parental behavior of sub-Arctic- and temperate-breeding Yellow warblers. Journal of Field Ornithology.

Horton, B.M. and Holberton, R.L. 2010. Morph-specific variation in baseline corticosterone and the adrenocortical response in breeding white-throated sparrows, Zonotrichia albicollis. The Auk:127:540-548.

Angelier, F., Holberton, R.L. and Marra, P.P. 2009. Does stress response predict return rate in a migratory bird species? A study of American redstarts and their non-breeding habitat. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences Series B. 276:3545-3551.

Horton, B.M. and Holberton, R.L. 2009. Corticosterone manipulations alter morph-specific nestling provisioning behavior in male white-throated sparrows, Zonotrichia albicollis. Hormones and Behavior 56:510-518.

Johnston, J. C. and Holberton, R.L. 2009. Forest management and temporal effects on food abundance for a ground-foraging bird (Catharus guttatus). Forest Ecology and Management 258:1516-1527.

Holberton, R.L., Boswell, T. and Hunter, M. J. 2008. Circulating prolactin and corticosterone concentrations
during the development of migratory condition in the Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis. General and Comparative Endocrinology 155:641–649.

Horton, B.M., Long, J.A. and Holberton, R.L. 2007. Intraperitoneal delivery of exogenous corticosterone via osmotic pump in a passerine bird. General and Comparative Endocrinology 152:8-13.

Holberton, R.L., Wilson, C.M., Hunter, M.J., Cash, W.B. and Sims, C.G. 2007. The Role of Corticosterone in Supporting Migratory Lipogenesis of the Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis: A Model for Central and eripheral Regulation. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 80:125-137.

Wilson, C.M. and Holberton, R.L. 2007. Differences in song rate in two populations of Yellow Warblers (Dendroica petechia). Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119:130-133.

Wilson, C. M. and Holberton, R.L. 2007. Are nestlings the cue for reduction of the adrenocortical response to stress in male Yellow Warblers breeding at high latitude? Condor 109:675-679.

Carlisle, J.D. and Holberton, R.L. 2006. Relative efficiency of a tartrate emetic for assessing diet and its deleteriouse effects on migratory birds: a cautionaryn note. Journal of Field Ornithology Journal of Field Ornithology 77:126-135.

Cash, W.B and Holberton, R.L. 2005. Endocrine and behavioral response to a decline in habitat quality: effects of pond drying on the Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta. Journal of Experimental Zoology 303A:872-879.

Holberton, R.L. and Able, K.P. 2005. Eberhard Gwinner – In Memoriam. The Auk 122:9-11.

Holberton, R.L. and Dufty, A.M., Jr. 2005. Hormone Patterns and Variation in Life History Strategies of Migratory and Non-migratory Birds, pp 290-302 in Birds of Two Worlds: The Ecology and Evolution of Migratory Birds (Marra, P. and Goldberg, R., Eds.), Johns Hopkins Press.

Long, J. A. and Holberton, R.L. 2004. Corticosterone secretion, energetic condition, and a test of the migration modulation hypothesis in the Hermit Thrush. The Auk 121:1094-1102.

Wilson, C. M. and Holberton, R.L. 2004 (plus erratum). Individual risk versus immediate reproductive success: a basis for latitudinal differences in the adrenocortical response to stress in Yellow warblers, Dendroica petechia. The Auk 121: 1238-1249.

Holberton, R.L. and Wingfield, J.C. 2003. Modulating the corticosterone stress response:a mechanisms for balancing individual risk and reproductive success in Arctic-breeding sparrows? The Auk 120:1140-1150.

Lõhmus, M., Sandberg, R., Holberton, R.L. and Moore, F.R. 2003. Corticosterone levels in relation to migratory readiness in Red-eyed vireos (Vireo olivaceus). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 54:233-239.

Cash, W. B. and Holberton, R.L. 2002. An apparatus to measure the locomotor activity of freshwater turtles held in captivity. Herpetological Review 33: 181-182.

Mizrahi, D., Holberton, R.L. and Gauthreaux, S.A., Jr. 2001. Plasma corticosterone and adrenocortical stress response in Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Calidris pusilla, at a major stopover site during spring migration. The Auk 118:79-91.

Wilson, C. M. and Holberton, R.L. 2001. An alternative method for delivering adrenocorticotropin hormone in birds. Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 122:1-5.

Holberton, R.L. and Able, K.P. 2000. Differential migration and an endocrine response to stress in wintering dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis). Proc. Royal Soc. Lond. 267:1889-1896.

Sims, C.G. and Holberton, R.L. 2000. Development of the corticosterone stress response in young mockingbirds, Mimus polyglottos. Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 119:193-201.

Cash, W.B. and Holberton, R.L. 1999. The effects of exogenous corticosterone on locomotor activity in the Red-eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans. J. Exp. Zool. 284:637-644.

Holberton, R.L. 1999. Changes in patterns of corticosterone secretion concurrent with migratory fattening in a Neotropical migratory bird. Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 116:49-58.

Holberton, R.L., Marra, P.P. and Moore, F.R. 1999. Endocrine aspects of physiological condition, weather and habitat quality in landbird migrants during the non-breeding period. In Proceedings of the 22nd International Ornithological Congress, (N.J. Adams and R.H. Slotow, Eds), pp. 847-866. Johannesburg, South Africa: BirdLife South Africa.  

Marra, P. P. and Holberton, R.L. 1998. Corticosterone levels as indicators of habitat quality: effects of habitat segregation in a migratory bird during the non-breeding season. Oecologia 116:284-292.

Cash, W.B., Holberton, R.L. and Knight, S.S. 1997. Corticosterone secretion in response to capture and handling in free-living Red-eared Slider turtles. Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 108:427-433.

Holberton, R.L., Helmuth, B.S. and Wingfield, J.C. 1996. The corticosterone-based stress response in Gentoo (Pygoscelis papua) and King (Aptenodytes patagonicus) penguins in the Antarctic winter. Condor 98:850-854.

Holberton, R.L., Parrish, J.D. and Wingfield, J.C. 1996. Modulation of the adrenocortical stress response in Neotropical migrants during autumn migration. The Auk 113:558-564.

Helmuth, B., Veit, R.R. and Holberton, R.L., 1994. Long distance dispersal of a subantarctic brooding bivalve, Gaimardia trapesina, by kelp rafting. Marine Biol. 120:421-426.

Helmuth, B., Veit, R.R. and Holberton, R.L. 1994. Dispersal of benthic invertebrates in the Scotia Arc by kelp rafting. Antarctic Journal of the United States 29:145.

Holberton, R.L., and Wingfield, J.C. 1994. Adrenocortical responses to stress in Antarctic seabirds. Antarctic Journal of the United States 29:167.

Wingfield, J.C., Deviche, P., Sharbaugh, S., Astheimer, L.B., Holberton, R.L., Suydam, R. and Hunt, K. 1994. Seasonal changes of the adrenocortical responses to stress in Common Redpolls, Acanthis flammea, in Alaska. J. Exp. Zool. 270:372-380.

Holberton, R.L. 1993. An endogenous basis for differential migration in the Dark-eyed Junco. Condor 95:580-587.

Holberton, R.L. and Able, K.P. 1992. Persistence of circannual cycles in a migratory bird held in constant dim light. J. Comp. Physiol. A. 171: 477-481.

Holberton, R.L., Hanano, R. and Able, K.P. 1990. Age-related dominance in male dark-eyed juncos: effects of plumage and prior residence. Anim. Behav. 40:573-579.

Holberton, R.L., Able, K.P. and Wingfield, J.C. 1989. Status signalling in Dark-eyed Juncos, Junco hyemalis: plumage manipulations and hormonal correlates of dominance. Anim. Behav. 37:681-689.

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