Plasma levels of prolactin and FSH in free-living Pied flycatchers were studied in relation to breeding stage, clutch size and diurnal variations. In the female, the concentration of prolactin started to increase during the egg-laying and reached maximal values at the end of the incubation period. After hatching prolactin levels decreased. Male Pied flycatchers showed an increase in plasma levels of prolactin at the time when they returned to their home-territories, i.e. at the end of the incubation period. Males still occupying secondary territories at this time had low levels of prolactin. In the males, as in the females, plasma levels of prolactin decreased after hatching.
Male Pied flycatchers showed at all times higher plasma levels of FSH than did females. In both sexes FSH levels were high during the early part of the breeding season and started to decrease after the egg-laying period. After hatching time plasma levels of FSH were below the sensitivity of the assay. No differences in FSH were found between males occupying secondary territories and males in home-territories.
In incubating females FSH, but not prolactin, showed a distinct unimodal daily cycle.
No differences were found in plasma levels of prolactin and FSH between females incubating different sized clutches.