Female Birds Boost Up Their Eggs When Hearing Sexy Song

July 17, 2006

In a new study published in the latest issue of Ethology researchers show that female songbirds can alter the size of eggs and possibly the sex of their chicks according to how they perceive their mate's quality. The researchers played back attractive ("sexy") songs and less attractive control songs of male canaries to female domesticated canaries.

When the females started egg-laying they varied the size of their eggs in the nest according to the attractiveness of the male's song. That is, the more attractive the song, the larger the eggs.

However it is remarkable that while larger eggs were more likely to contain male offspring in natural environments, in the experiment there was no difference in brood sex ratio between the different songs played to the females, which suggests different levels of female control.

Male birdsong has long been known to attract females and influence mate choice decisions and even induce an alteration in the offspring's sex ratio. This study by Leitner et al. now shows experimentally that hearing attractive song also has a selective impact on female physiology.

45 female domesticated canaries participated in this study that was a collaboration of Royal Holloway, University of London and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen and Radolfzell in Germany.

The birds were kept in large aviaries where their daily behaviour was monitored in a colony before they were tested in the song experiments. The females showed a remarkable consistency in their behavioural and reproductive performance and the song stimuli alone were sufficient to elicit a profound physiological change. This study further highlights the importance of behavioural stimuli for reproductive physiology. Bathroom Pavarottis beware.

Copyright 2006 by Space Daily, Distributed United Press International

Explore further: Researchers reveal acoustic complexity of chickadee songs

Related Stories

Researchers reveal acoustic complexity of chickadee songs

November 5, 2015

Songbirds join humans in the select few animal groups that are "vocal learners"—that is, they must learn from adults of their own species to develop a normal ability to speak (or sing, as the case may be). Because the brain ...

Male mosquitoes lured to traps by sounds of female wing-beats

October 26, 2015

Like mariners lured on to the rocks by the siren songs of legend, male mosquitoes have been found to zero in on inexpensive traps that broadcast sound that is similar in frequency to the sound that is produced by the wing-beats ...

Recommended for you

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.