Seasonal, testosterone-dependent changes in sexual behaviors are common in male vertebrates. In songbirds such seasonal changes occur in a learned behavior - singing. Domesticated male canaries (Serinus canaria) appear to lose song units (syllables) after the breeding season and learn new ones until the next breeding season. Here we demonstrate in a longitudinal field study of individual, free-living nondomesticated (wild) canaries (S. canaria) a different mode of seasonal behavioral plasticity, seasonal activation, and inactivation of auditory-motor memories. The song repertoire composition of wild canaries changes seasonally: about 25% of the syllables are sung seasonally; the remainder occur year-round, despite seasonal changes in the temporal patterns of song. In the breeding season, males sing an increased number of fast frequency-modulated syllables, which are sexually attractive for females, in correlation with seasonally increased testosterone levels. About 50% of the syllables that were lost after one breeding season reappear in the following breeding season. Furthermore, some identical syllable sequences are reactivated on an annual basis. The seasonal plasticity in vocal behavior occurred despite the gross anatomical and ultrastructural stability of the forebrain song control areas HVc and RA that are involved in syllable motor control. © 2001 Academic Press.
Leitner, S., Voigt, C., Garcia-Segura, L. M., van 't Hof, T., & Gahr, M. (2001). Seasonal activation and inactivation of song motor memories in wild canaries is not reflected in neuroanatomical changes of forebrain song areas. Hormones and Behavior, 40, 160-168. https://doi.org/10.1006/hbeh.2001.1700