The songs of adult male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) arise by an integration of activity from two neural pathways that emanate from the telencephalic nucleus HVC (proper name). One pathway descends directly from HVC to the vocal premotor nucleus RA (the robust nucleus of the arcopallium) whereas a second pathway descends from HVC into a basal ganglia circuit (the anterior forebrain pathway, AFP) that also terminates in RA. Although HVC neurons that project directly to RA outnumber those that contribute to the AFP, both populations are distributed throughout HVC. Thus, partial ablation (microlesion) of HVC should damage both pathways in a proportional manner. We report here that bilateral HVC microlesions in adult male zebra finches produce an immediate loss of song stereotypy from which birds recover, in some cases within 3 days. The contribution of the AFP to the onset of song destabilization was tested by ablating the output nucleus of this circuit (LMAN, the lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior nidopallium) prior to bilateral HVC microlesions. Song stereotypy was largely unaffected. Together, our findings suggest that adult vocal production involves nonproportional integration of two streams of neural activity with opposing effects on song—HVC's direct projection to RA underlies production of stereotyped song whereas the AFP seems to facilitate vocal variation. However, the rapid recovery of song in birds with HVC microlesions alone suggests the presence of dynamic corrective mechanisms that favor vocal stereotypy. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 67: 205–218, 2007.