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Effects of Nestboxes On LH, Testosterone, Testicular Size, and the Reproductive Behavior of Male European Starlings in Spring

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The effect of nestboxes on the vernal increase and decrease in reproductive activity was investigated in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), held in outdoor aviaries. Male-only groups with (group 1) and without (group 2) availability of nestboxes were compared for the amount of song, for testicular size and plasma titers of luteinizing hormone (LH) and testosterone. Testicular size and LH differed significantly between the 2 groups, being higher in males with nestboxes. Similar differences, as well as differences in nestbox-related behaviors (sitting in front of a nestbox, inspecting it, and nestbuilding) were also found when individuals of group 1, in possession of a nestbox, were compared to those without. In another group (2), the seasonal dependence of nestboxes as a modifying factor was investigated. These males were given access to nestboxes later in the season, than the males of group 1, after April 7. The effects on physiological parameters at this time of year were negligible in that only a transient increase in LH was seen compared to group 3. Nestbox-oriented behaviors did not reach the same intensities as in group 1. These results demonstrate the importance of nest-site availability in modifying behavioral and physiological functions during the vernal reproductive cycle. At the same time they indicate a seasonal dependence in these modifying effects.

Affiliations: 1: Max-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie, Vogelwarte, D-8138 Andechs, BRD

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