Female Birds Boost Up Their Eggs When Hearing Sexy Song

Jul 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: Q&A: Why are antibiotics used in livestock?

Related Stories

The hoo's hoo of gibbon communication

Apr 07, 2015

The secret communication of gibbons has been interpreted for the first time in a study published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. The research reveals the likely meaning of a number of dis ...

New cicada species discovered in Switzerland and Italy

Feb 24, 2015

They belong to the best-known, biggest and loudest group of insects – and yet they still manage to surprise: Researchers at the University of Basel have discovered a new singing cicada species in Italy ...

Recommended for you

Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

4 hours ago

Many animals feed on seeds, acorns or nuts. The common feature of these are that they have shells and there is no direct way to know what's inside. How do the animals know how much and what quality of food ...

Q&A: Why are antibiotics used in livestock?

19 hours ago

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, is the latest company to ask its suppliers to curb the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Here's a rundown of what's driving the decision: ...

User comments : 0

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.