Testosterone control of male courtship in birds

Horm Behav. 2008 Aug;54(2):227-33. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.04.004. Epub 2008 Apr 23.


A sequence of behaviours which we call courtship initiates reproduction in a large number of species. In vertebrates, as a component of male sexual behaviour courtship is strongly influenced by testicular androgen. Here I will review some salient issues about the regulation of courtship by testosterone in birds. The first section will briefly summarize the first 100 years of research on this topic. The specific role of testosterone or its oestrogenic metabolites in the control of different components of courtship will be the subject of the second section. Then, I will discuss how behavioural patterns can be recruited into courtship and modified in their structure by testosterone action. In the following section, the role of sexual selection and female choice in shaping the link between testosterone and courtship will be addressed. The problematic nature of the quantitative relationships between testosterone and behaviour will be topic of the fifth section. Finally, I will discuss how courtship traits that are activated by testosterone can be apparently independent of hormone blood concentrations. These issues will be examined in an evolutionary perspective, in an attempt to understand how natural and sexual selection have shaped the links between the hormone and the behaviour.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Courtship*
  • Endocrine System / physiology
  • Male
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / physiology*


  • Testosterone