The Effects of Experimentally Elevated Testosterone and Food Deprivation on Food Consumption and Prey Size Preferences in Male Dark-Eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis, Emberizidae: Passeriformes)


Ethan Clotfelter, Department of Biology, Providence College, 549 River Avenue, Providence, RI 02918, USA. E-mail:


Numerous studies have shown that the experimental elevation of circulating levels of testosterone reduces parental behaviour in male birds, particularly the provisioning of young. The mechanisms responsible for this change in behaviour are not fully understood. In this study, we examine the effects of elevated testosterone on food consumption and prey selection, both of which have potential consequences for nestling provisioning behaviour. We manipulated testosterone and performed two experiments on a captive, non-breeding population of male dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) on long day-lengths. In the first experiment, we subjected juncos to 3 h of food deprivation and compared food consumption and prey size selection by males with elevated testosterone (testosterone males) to that of control males. Testosterone males consumed more food than control males and showed a preference for larger prey. In a second experiment in which small prey were more abundant than large prey, food consumption and prey size preferences did not differ between testosterone and control males. We also manipulated the duration of food deprivation in the second experiment. Males of both treatments consumed more small prey under conditions of mild (1 h) or moderate (5 h) food deprivation and consumed more large prey under conditions of intermediate (3 h) food deprivation. We discuss our results and the effects that testosterone has on self-maintenance behaviour and male parental effort.