Energy metabolism, testosterone and corticosterone in white-crowned sparrows

M. Wikelski, S. Lynn, C. Breuner, J. C. Wingfield, G. J. Kenagy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


The influence of the steroid hormones testosterone and corticosterone on energy metabolism and activity of birds is largely enigmatic. We measured resting metabolic rate during night and day in 12 long-term castrated and 12 intact male white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii) under short-day (8:16 SD), long-day (20:4 LD), LD+testosterone implant and LD-testosterone implant conditions. Each male was sequentially measured under all four conditions. Photostimulation increased testosterone, resting metabolic rate, food intake, hopping activity and body mass in castrates and intact males. Surprisingly, testosterone levels and metabolic rates did not differ between intact and castrated males. Testosterone implantation increased activity and food intake, but decreased body mass and resting metabolic rate in both groups. Removing testosterone implants reversed the effects on resting metabolic rate, activity and food intake. Corticosterone levels, measured immediately at the end of metabolism measurements, showed birds were not stressed. Corticosterone had no apparent relationship with resting metabolic rate and there was no interaction between corticosterone and testosterone. Overall, positive changes in testosterone levels resulted in a decrease of resting metabolic rate. We speculate that testosterone increases activity, and birds compensate for increased activity metabolism by reducing resting metabolic rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-470
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology - A Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1999


  • Activity
  • Corticosterone
  • Metabolism
  • Testosterone
  • White-crowned sparrows


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