Treatment of female zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) with 17-beta-estradiol leads to a female-biased sex ratio in their offspring at the age of independence [Horm. Behav. 35 (1999) 135]. It is unclear whether this is due to a bias of the primary sex ratio or to sex-specific survival. We replicated this experiment and found again a significantly higher total number of daughters than sons at independence in the estradiol-treated group. This was due to higher embryonic survival of daughters compared with sons in the estradiol-treated group and the reverse in the control group. There was no effect of the hormone treatment on the primary sex ratio. Treatment with 17-beta-estradiol led to a significantly shorter hatching time and to heavier offspring at day 7 after hatching. This weight was correlated with maternal plasma estradiol levels on the day of the first egg, which were significantly higher in the estradiol-treated group than in the control group. The results do not support the idea that maternal estradiol levels influence the primary sex ratio. They indicate that maternal estradiol differentially affects survival of sons and daughters via an influence on the embryonic environment, possibly enhancing offspring growth. beta 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.