Relationships were assessed between brood patch development, nest-building and egg-laying in 20 female canaries in the natural breeding season. Twelve of these were unpaired; eight were provided with males after two months of being kept singly. The later laying of some females was due to their more protracted development rather than to their later start. The completion of brood patch defeathering, a certain stage of its vascularity, and the start of intensive nest-building occurred within a few days of each other whatever the date of egg-laying. Differences from an earlier study of paired females which had only limited access to nest material can be understood in terms of the known effects of the male and the nest-cup on reproductive development.
All birds showed a period of intensive nest-building beginning about eight days before egg-laying, with a peak about three days before. In those females in which the period of intensive building lasted for more than eight days, there was an earlier peak about seven days previously. This, and also the building behaviour of many females even earlier in the season, are in harmony with the view that reproductive development is not progressive, but intermittent.