Seasonality in song behaviour revisited: seasonal and annual variants and invariants in the song of the domesticated canary (Serinus canaria)

Horm Behav. 2008 Aug;54(3):373-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.05.001. Epub 2008 May 15.


The song of the domesticated canary (Serinus canaria) is one of the most widely used models to study the neural correlates of behavioural plasticity and the mechanisms of female mate choice. However, only few studies have described the song behaviour in detail and monitored their changes throughout the year, and these data are restricted to the "Waterslager" strain. Here, we studied the song characteristics of the male common domesticated canary at different times of the year, the spring breeding and autumnal non-breeding season, and monitored the birds' songs up to the following breeding season. During breeding, males have increased plasma levels of testosterone, and songs are on average longer and consist of fewer non-repeated syllable types compared to the non-breeding season. When subsequent seasons are compared, song duration and the proportion of non-repeated syllable types change seasonally but not across years. Repertoire size remains constant throughout seasons although syllable types are exchanged. Syllable carry-over is significantly higher from one breeding season to the next than between the breeding and non-breeding season. Further, the repertoire of the breeding season contains more potentially sexually attractive syllable types than that of the non-breeding season. These data show that overall song structure is retained throughout the year while seasonality occurs in the temporal pattern and in repertoire composition.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Canaries / physiology*
  • Seasons*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Software
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*


  • Testosterone