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Anim Behav. 1998 Apr;55(4):1003-10.

Context determines the sex appeal of male zebra finch song.

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The Rockefeller University Field Research Center


We explored the conditions under which playbacks of male zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata, song induced reproduction in females. In a laboratory study, a rise in faecal oestrogen levels predicted egg laying. Song playbacks by themselves induced a decrease in oestrogen levels. There was an increase in oestrogen levels, followed by egg laying, when the song was broadcast from inside a male model positioned away from the nest. However, this effect occurred only when a second, silent male model was perched on the rim of the nest. If song was broadcast from inside the model perched on the nest, there was no increase in oestrogen levels. We conclude that tests of song efficacy in female songbirds must respect some contextual rules, which are likely to vary between species. Only then does it become possible to ascertain which sounds are most effective in inducing physiological changes leading to reproduction. Copyright 1998 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.


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