Artificial extension of the duration of nocturnally secreted circulating melatonin with exogenous injections produces a short day effect in the reproductive status of mammals, and this paradigm has been applied to Japanese quail to test the hypothesis that birds are similar to mammals in this respect. Male quail reared on non-stimulatory short days (8L:16D) were switched to mildly stimulatory 12L:12D and given daily melatonin injections at dusk (10 micrograms 2 h before dusk and 10 micrograms at dusk) or at dawn (10 micrograms 2 h before dawn and 10 micrograms at dawn) for about 3 weeks. Although assay of circulating melatonin suggested that injections had extended the melatonin signal, there was no short day effect, i.e. reproductive stimulation was not prevented. This reinforces the view that, unlike mammals, birds do not read the duration of the melatonin signal to measure scotoperiod. Paradoxically, however, the injections resulted in a small but significant stimulation. The results are discussed in view of the postulated role for melatonin as an internal Zeitgeber, which is coupled to the external photic Zeitgeber, to regulate the circadian system.