Testosterone secretion in a socially monogamous but sexually promiscuous migratory passerine

Lucas J. Redmond, Michael T. Murphy, Nathan W. Cooper, Kathleen M. O'Reilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The steroid hormone testosterone (T) influences a multitude of traits critical to reproduction in vertebrates. In birds, high male T supports territory establishment and mate attraction, but is thought to interfere with parental care. Interspecific comparisons indicate that migratory species with short, synchronous breeding seasons have the highest peak T, and that the seasonal profile of T exhibits a rapid decline with the onset of incubation by females. We describe the T profile of the migratory, socially monogamous, and biparental Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) from the high desert of eastern Oregon, USA, where breeding occurs within a short 2-3 month period. Eastern Kingbirds are socially monogamous but exhibit high rates of extra-pair paternity as ~60% of broods contain extra-pair young. We therefore evaluate whether Eastern Kingbirds exhibit the "typical" T profile expected for a synchronously breeding migratory species, or whether T is maintained at a more constant level as would be predicted for a species with opportunities for mating that extend over a majority of the breeding season. Our samples were divided into six periods of the reproductive cycle from territory establishment to the feeding of fledglings. T did not change across stages of the nest cycle. Instead, T declined with sampling date and nest density, and increased with the number of fertile females in the population. Male kingbirds advertise their presence through song for most of the breeding season, and we suggest that T is maintained throughout most of the breeding season because male fitness is equally dependent on within- and extra-pair reproductive success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-32
Number of pages9
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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