Sexual Imprinting in Zebra-finch Females: Do Females Develop a Preference for Males that Look Like Their Father?


Zoological Laboratory, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, NL-9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands.


Recently, it has been proposed that through sexual imprinting on their parents, young birds learn to discriminate between males and females. Support for this suggestion was given by a study on zebra-finch males Taniopygia guttata, which showed that males of this species develop a strong sexual preference for mother-like females over father-like females. The present study investigates whether zebra-finch females also develop a sexual preference for mates resembling the opposite-sex parent. The females used had been raised either by normal pairs, by white pairs or by pairs of both morphs. The preferences were tested by confronting these females with normal and white males, both in simultaneous two-stimulus tests and successive one-stimulus tests. In contrast to males, females raised by a pair of mixed-morph parents did not show a preference for mating partners of the opposite-sex-parent's morph. Instead, they showed a preference for males of the mother's plumage type. It is suggested that the difference in which sexual imprinting proceeds in males and females may be related to the different role each sex plays in the pair formation.