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Temporal Relationships Between Nesting Behaviour, Ovary and Oviduct Development During the Reproductive Cycle of Female Budgerigars

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The development of nesting behaviour in female budgerigars was observed from nestbox entry until three days after the last egg was laid and correlated with the development of the ovary, oviduct and brood patch. Female budgerigars entered nestboxes eight to nine days (median: 9; range: 8-22) before laying the first egg. Behaviour patterns performed in the nestbox included walking about, looking out of the entrance hole, preening, gnawing the floor and sitting or standing in the nest hollow. After the first egg was laid the females spent 98%-100% of the observation period in the incubation posture sitting in the nest hollow. Males paired with these females began to enter the nestboxes intermittently six days before the first egg was laid. Males entered the nestboxes for short durations throughout the reproductive cycle and did not participate in nesting behaviour. The gnawing behaviour of females provided with hard and soft nesting substrates was compared. The durations of gnawing were approximately four times longer for females with the soft nesting substrate. But there was no difference between the groups in latency to egg-laying, suggesting that gnawing does not play a regulatory role in nesting behaviour. No changes in the brood patch area occurred in females on the first day of nest entry. Defeathering of the abdominal region was first evident six days before the first egg was laid and coincided with the onset of intensive nesting behaviour. Further increases in the rate of defeathering and vascularity of the abdominal-thorax and crop regions commenced one to two days before the first egg was laid. Maximum brood patch development occurred after the second egg was laid. The oviducts were small with tubular glands being formed in the magnum region in females on the first and second days of nestbox entry. But, three to four days after entering the nest-boxes, females which showed a daily increase in duration in the nestboxes also showed an increase in oviduct weight with albumen formed in the tubular glands of the magnum region. The temporal relationships between oviduct and ovarian development and nesting behaviour were similar to those of nest-building species such as the canary. Brood patch development was temporally related to incubation behaviour and egg-laying. It can be suggested that the integration of temporal patterning of nesting behaviour and somatic development in a non-nest building species such as budgerigars depends on relatively similar hormonal factors and environmental stimuli to those species which construct a nest.

Affiliations: 1: MRC Unit of the Development and Integration of Behaviour, University Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, Madingley, Cambridge, England

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