Hatching late in the season requires flexibility in the timing of song learning

Biol Lett. 2015 Aug;11(8):20150522. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0522.


Most songbirds learn their songs from adult tutors, who can be their father or other male conspecifics. However, the variables that control song learning in a natural social context are largely unknown. We investigated whether the time of hatching of male domesticated canaries has an impact on their song development and on the neuroendocrine parameters of the song control system. Average age difference between early- and late-hatched males was 50 days with a maximum of 90 days. Song activity of adult tutor males decreased significantly during the breeding season. While early-hatched males were exposed to tutor songs for on average the first 99 days, late-hatched peers heard adult song only during the first 48 days of life. Remarkably, although hatching late in the season negatively affected body condition, no differences between both groups of males were found in song characteristics either in autumn or in the following spring. Similarly, hatching date had no effect on song nucleus size and circulating testosterone levels. Our data suggest that late-hatched males must have undergone accelerated song development. Furthermore, the limited tutor song exposure did not affect adult song organization and song performance.

Keywords: HVC; canary; song exposure; testosterone; vocal learning.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Canaries / growth & development
  • Canaries / physiology*
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Seasons
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Time Factors
  • Vocalization, Animal*


  • Testosterone