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Singing in Relation To Social Dominance and Testosterone in White-Throated Sparrows

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image of Behaviour

Singing by white-throated sparrows Zonotrichia albicollis during the winter in natural situations occurred most frequently among birds with high rank in a dominance hierarchy. Genetic morph, age and sex had no significant influence on singing during winter. Among testosterone-implanted birds in small groups in large aviaries, dominance rank strongly influenced singing. Testosterone-treated birds with top rank sang most frequently, those with second rank less, and those with lower rank never. As a testosterone-treated bird's rank changed in the course of regroupings with new opponents, its frequency of singing also changed. Dominance in a group thus interacted with testosterone to promote singing. In addition, grouped birds in May before treatment with testosterone did not sing. As a consequence, it seems likely that the normal seasonal development of territorial behavior and singing involves cascading interactions of endocrine states and social circumstances.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280, U.S.A.


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