Modulation of gonadotrophin and prolacrin secretion by daylength and breeding behaviour in free-living starlings, Sturnus vulgaris



Plasma levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and prolactin were measured by radioimmunoassay in plasma samples collected from free-living starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, trapped in nest-boxes. By leaving some nest-boxes undisturbed, and repeatedly destroying nests in others, birds from a single-brooded population were trapped whilst nest-building, incubating or feeding nestlings, at different times throughout the normal breeding season. In both males and females trapped whilst nest-building, plasma LH and prolactin levels increased progressively from mid March until late May. In females sampled during incubation, LH and FSH levels were high throughout May but decreased in early June. Prolactin levels were highest in late May. In both males and females trapped during mid May, LH levels were highest in these birds which were nest-building at this time and lowest in those feeding nestlings, FSH did not change significantly, and prolactin was low in those birds which were nest-building and high in those incubating or feeding nestlings. In female starlings from a double-brooded population, levels of LH and FSH were much lower whilst feeding the second brood than when feeding the first brood, whereas prolactin levels were similar. The results suggest that incubation and feeding behaviour inhibit the increase in LH secretion caused by increasing daylength, but stimulate prolactin secretion in excess of that caused by increasing daylength.