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Abstract

Recent studies conducted in our laboratory have demonstrated that a special type of song phrase (‘sexy’ phrases) containing bipartite syllables composed of abrupt frequency falls and short silences stimulate female canaries to solicit for copulation. The study was undertaken to determine whether sexy phrases also facilitated other aspects of the reproductive activity of the female canary, namely, nest-building and egg-laying. During the first experiment, we studied the effect of sexy and non-sexy songs on copulation solicitation displays in 1-year-old females without reproductive experience and in mature females with previous reproductive experience. We confirmed that sexy songs elicited more sexual responses than did non-sexy songs in yearlings and in mature females. During the second experiment, we studied the effect of male songs on nest-building activities and egg-laying in 1-year-old inexperienced females, and in mature, experienced females. The songs of conspecific males significantly triggered and increased nest-building behaviour in female canaries whatever their age or reproductive experience. In contrast, song effects on egg-laying were only found in young females. One-year-old inexperienced females exposed to sexy or non-sexy songs laid more eggs and laid earlier than did 1-year-old inexperienced controls; no such differences were observed in mature, experienced females. The efficiency of songs in promoting nest-building or egg-laying appeared to be unrelated to their efficiency in eliciting sexual responses. No difference was found between females exposed to sexy songs and females exposed to non-sexy songs; differences were only found between control and the two groups of song-exposed females. This result demands further experiments in order to determine whether other song phrase types may account for the stimulating effects of male song on female nest-building and egg-laying.