Does testosterone mediate the trade-off between nestling begging and growth in the canary (Serinus canaria)?

K. L. Buchanan*, A. R. Goldsmith, C. A. Hinde, S. C. Griffith, R. M. Kilner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Nestling birds solicit food from their parents with vigorous begging displays, involving posturing, jostling and calling. In some species, such as canaries, begging is especially costly because it causes a trade off against nestling growth. Fitness costs of begging like this are predicted by evolutionary theory because they function to resolve conflicts of interest within the family over the provision of parental investment. However, the mechanism that links these costs with nestling behaviour remains unclear. In the present study, we determine if the relationships between nestling androgen levels, nestling begging intensities and nestling growth rates are consistent with the hypothesis that testosterone is responsible for the trade-off between begging and growth. We test this idea with a correlational study, using fecal androgens as a non-invasive method for assaying nestling androgen levels. Our results show that fecal androgen levels are positively correlated with nestling begging intensity, and reveal marked family differences in each trait. Furthermore, changes in fecal androgen levels between 5 and 8 days after hatching are positively associated with changes in nestling begging intensity, and negatively associated with nestling growth during this time. Although these correlational results support our predictions, we suggest that that experimental manipulations are now required to test the direct or indirect role of testosterone in mediating the trade-off between begging and growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-671
Number of pages8
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


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