The establishment of reference intervals for hematologic and blood chemistry values in a given species is essential for subsequent diagnosis of disease at rehabilitation facilities and in captive breeding programs. In this study, blood samples were obtained from nestlings (18 males and 22 females) of a natural-vegetation breeding population of Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus) in eastern Spain in order to establish reference intervals for blood values. This is the first study documenting hematologic and biochemical reference intervals for free-living Montagu's harriers. The studied population may reflect typical blood values for the species, since it is a free-living population that seems not to be constrained by food availability, as it is the population of Montagu's harriers with the highest productivity within Europe. Differences related to sex, year, clutch size, brood size, and number of fledglings were analyzed. Packed cell volume and hemoglobin were significantly lower from nests with five chicks compared to values from nests with fewer chicks, indicating that the cost of rearing more than four chicks in this species may be excessive. Total protein, calcium (Ca), and phosphorus (P) were significantly lower in the year with lowest mean rainfall, which correlates with the worst breeding success rate since the population has been monitored. No gender differences were found; this is likely a result of the prepubertal age of the animals sampled.
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Vol. 40 • No. 4