European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) were used as a passerine bird model to examine the effect of dietary iron on the level of hepatic iron in birds. Nestling and fledgling starlings (n = 56) were raised on a controlled-iron diet. When birds maintained constant body weight, they were assigned in pairs to cages, and baseline sampling was performed. Pairs were then assigned to one of two diets: the controlled-iron diet (168 ppm, dry basis) or a high-iron diet (3,035 ppm, dry basis). Dry-matter intake and iron consumption were recorded. Dry-matter intake did not differ between the dietary treatment groups and was stable during treatment periods. Iron intake was higher in the high-iron group (P < 0.05). Birds were euthanized at baseline, 8 wk, and 16 wk. Body, liver, and spleen weights were measured. Hepatic iron and copper concentrations were determined. Body weight did not differ between the two treatment groups or among individuals for the study duration. Liver iron concentration differed over time and between treatment groups. Birds receiving both treatments had similar liver iron content at week 8 (3,107 ± 228.6 ppm and 3,122 ± 306.2 ppm high and controlled iron, respectively; P > 0.05), but by week 16, birds consuming the high-iron diet had greater hepatic iron levels than those consuming the controlled-iron diet (5,929 ± 937.2 ppm and 3,683 ± 229.5 ppm high and controlled iron, respectively; P < 0.05). Birds on the controlled-iron diet also had higher hepatic iron at 16 wk than at 8 wk. Liver copper decreased over time in all birds regardless of treatment. Results show that both dietary iron level and duration of time influenced hepatic iron storage. The controlled-iron diets still allowed accumulation of hepatic iron in an 8-wk period.
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Vol. 31 • No. 4