Stimulatory effects on the reproductive axis in female songbirds by conspecific and heterospecific male song

Horm Behav. 2000 May;37(3):179-89. doi: 10.1006/hbeh.2000.1573.


Courtship vocalizations of male songbirds can profoundly enhance the reproductive physiology and behavior of conspecific females. However, no study has fully investigated the selectivity of conspecific song effects on reproductive development in birds. We studied the effects of conspecific and heterospecific song on reproductive development in domesticated (canaries) and wild songbirds (song sparrows). As expected, conspecific song enhanced follicular development. Unexpectedly, however, birds exposed to heterospecific song also underwent enhanced follicular development (compared to birds exposed to no song); conspecific and heterospecific songs were equally effective in enhancing ovarian development. In canaries exposed to 18L:6D, conspecific song induced oviposition earlier and at a greater frequency than in heterospecific and no song groups, with the fewest eggs being laid in the no song group. These results indicate that conspecific and heterospecific male song can enhance reproductive activity in female songbirds. Whether or not activation of the reproductive axis in female songbirds by heterospecific song occurs in the wild remains unclear. It is also unclear as to whether the ability of the reproductive axis to respond to heterospecific song performs a specific function, or whether it is simply a consequence of greater selection pressure acting upon behavioral responses to song.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Canaries / physiology*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Laparotomy
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Ovary / physiology
  • Oviposition / physiology*
  • Songbirds
  • Species Specificity
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*


  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Luteinizing Hormone