Avian circadian organization: a chorus of clocks

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2014 Jan;35(1):76-88. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2013.10.002. Epub 2013 Oct 21.


In birds, biological clock function pervades all aspects of biology, controlling daily changes in sleep: wake, visual function, song, migratory patterns and orientation, as well as seasonal patterns of reproduction, song and migration. The molecular bases for circadian clocks are highly conserved, and it is likely the avian molecular mechanisms are similar to those expressed in mammals, including humans. The central pacemakers in the avian pineal gland, retinae and SCN dynamically interact to maintain stable phase relationships and then influence downstream rhythms through entrainment of peripheral oscillators in the brain controlling behavior and peripheral tissues. Birds represent an excellent model for the role played by biological clocks in human neurobiology; unlike most rodent models, they are diurnal, they exhibit cognitively complex social interactions, and their circadian clocks are more sensitive to the hormone melatonin than are those of nocturnal rodents.

Keywords: Bird song; Birds; Circadian; Circannual; Melatonin; Migration; Navigation; Pineal gland.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Biological Clocks*
  • Birds / metabolism*
  • Birds / physiology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / metabolism


  • Melatonin