Post-hatch oral estrogen exposure reduces oviduct and egg mass and alters nest-building behavior in adult zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata)

Johanna R. Rochester*, Rachel Heiblum, Israel Rozenboim, James R. Millam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


In addition to well recognized effects on the zebra finch song system, we previously showed that post-hatch oral estrogen and xenoestrogen exposure disrupts reproduction by increasing eggshell breakage in females and decreasing fertility in males. Here we show that post-hatch exposure to estradiol benzoate (by oral gavage on days 5 to 11) at a 100 nmol EB per g body mass dose (EB100) also reduces adult oviduct mass. Further, EB100 and doses two orders of magnitude lower (EB10, EB1) reduce egg mass and length. Similar to the induction of song-control nuclei in females, dosing with EB10 and EB100 increased and masculinized another highly differentiated behavior: nest-building. Zebra finches orally exposed as chicks were observed during reproductive trials in communal breeding cages for 4 or 6weeks duration. EB100 males and females and EB10 males showed increased nest-building behaviors. Further, EB10 and EB100 birds had larger nests than canola oil-treated controls, and EB100 birds had faster rates of nest-building than controls, while EB1 birds had significantly slower rates of nest-building than controls. Additionally, EB100 males and females also showed an increased preference for a coarser male-typical nest-building material (jute) over a finer, female-typical material (wool), suggesting a masculinization of nest-building behavior at the higher doses. The change in zebra finch nest-building behavior induced by early EB exposure suggests that nest size and quality, in addition to egg mass and length, may provide new endpoints for assessing avian exposure to xeno- and phyto-estrogens in wild birds.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)370-380
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Sarah Dinius, Elaine Hoye, Jennifer McCarty and Katherine Sanui for their assistance with the behavioral observations. This work was partially funded by NSF# #0314510 to JRM.


  • Avian
  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • Environmental estrogens
  • Masculinization
  • Nest-building behavior
  • Reproduction
  • Zebra finch


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