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Horm Behav. 1983 Mar;17(1):111-33.

Hormonal specificity and activation of sexual behavior in male zebra finches.


Castrated zebra finches receiving one of six hormone treatments were given three weekly tests with different females and their sexual behavior was contrasted with that of two control groups consisting of intact or castrated males given implants of cholesterol. The six hormone treatments were: two aromatizable androgens, testosterone (T) and androstenedione (AE); two nonaromatizable androgens, androsterone (AN) and dihydrotestosterone (DHT); an estrogen, estradiol (E); or a combination of E + DHT. Half the males receiving DHT received the 5 alpha-isomer, half received the 5 beta-isomer. Castration significantly reduced the proportion of males which courted females, total courtship displays, high-intensity courtship displays, beak wiping activity, and significantly increased the latencies to show these behaviors compared to intact males. Castrated males never attempted to mount a female. All of these measures of courtship and copulatory behavior were restored to normal levels only by treatments providing both estrogenic and alpha-androgenic metabolites (i.e., T, AE, E + alpha DHT). AE was clearly the most effective of these, raising behavior significantly above normal on several measures. AN treatment was more effective than alpha DHT on all measures and not significantly different from intact birds on some. Treatment with E, alpha DHT, beta DHT, or E + beta DHT was totally ineffective. Surprisingly, females only solicited males whose hormone treatments provided estrogenic metabolites. Not only did they solicit males given aromatizable androgens, which showed high rates of courtship activity, they also solicited males given E or E + beta DHT, some of which never even courted. Castration and hormone treatment also affected body and syringeal weight, but in opposite directions. Castration increased body weight while decreasing syringeal weight. Hormone treatments providing alpha-androgenic metabolites decreased body weight and increased syrinx weight. Treatments supplying estrogen as well were slightly more effective.

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