The dopaminergic (DAergic) system has well-known influences on behavioral and cognitive functions. Previous work with common waxbills (Estrilda astrild) reported context-specific DAergic effects that could have been due to social environment. Manipulating the dopamine D2-like receptor family (D2R) pathways had opposing effects on behavior depending on whether waxbills were tested alone or in a small cage with a mirror as a social stimulus. As waxbills are highly gregarious, it was hypothesized that being alone or perceiving that they have a companion might explain this context dependence. To test context-dependent DAergic effects, we compared behavioral effects of D2R manipulation in waxbills in the same familiar environment, but either alone or with a familiar, same-sex companion. We found that D2R agonism decreased movement and feeding, similar to previous results when testing waxbills alone. However, contrary to the hypothesis of dependence on social context, we found that the behavioral effects of the D2R agonist were unchanged when waxbills were tested with a companion. The context dependence reported earlier might thus be due to other factors, such as the stress of being in a novel environment (small cage) or with an unfamiliar social stimulus (mirror image). In tests with a companion, we also found a sex-specific social effect of D2R manipulation: D2R blocking tended to decrease aggression in males but to increase it in females. Together with past work, our results suggest that DAergic effects on behavior involve different types of context or sex dependence.

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