Seasonality and Hormonal Control of Territorial Aggression in Female Song Sparrows (Passeriformes: Emberizidae: Melospiza melodia)

Authors


Corresponding author: Michelle M. Elekonich, Department of Entomology, MC 118, University of Illinois, 505 S. Goodwin, Urbana, IL 61802, USA. E-mail: elekonic@life.uiuc.edu

Abstract

Male and female song sparrows perform similar aggressive behaviors including flights, wing-wave threat displays, and growls. Females very rarely sing, however. To investigate the seasonal variation and hormonal control of territorial aggression in females, we simulated female intrusions during the pre-breeding, breeding and post-molt seasons in the field. Circulating levels of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, estradiol, progesterone and corticosterone in females experiencing simulated intrusion were compared to those of passively netted females matched for breeding stage. Female aggressive responses to female intrusion dropped from the pre-breeding to the post-molt seasons. Levels of circulating androgens were significantly higher in control females than in females experiencing a simulated intrusion. There were no significant differences in any of the other hormones measured. Although song sparrow female-female aggression appears to be behaviorally similar to male-male aggression, the seasonal variation and hormonal support of aggression differ between the sexes.

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