Evidence has accumulated that the regulation of male sexual behavior by dopamine might not be the same in Japanese quail (and perhaps all birds) as it is in mammals. For example, the non-selective dopamine receptor agonist, apomorphine (APO), facilitates male sexual behavior in rats but inhibits it in quail. Although the general organization of the dopamine system is similar in birds and mammals, it is possible that the relative distribution and/or density of binding sites are different. We therefore compared the relative densities of D1-like and D2-like receptor subtypes in Japanese quail and rats, with the use of in vitro quantitative receptor autoradiography. Brain sections from 8 male rats and 8 male quail were labeled with [(3)H]SCH-23390 and [(3)H]Spiperone. In general we found a systematic species difference in the relative density of D1- vs. D2-like receptors such that the D2/D1 ratio is higher in quail than in rats in areas, known to be important target sites for dopamine action such as striatal regions or the preoptic area, which is also associated with activation of sexual behavior. This difference might explain the variation in the behavioral effectiveness of APO in rats as compared to quail; with a higher relative density of D2-like receptors in quail, a similar dose of APO would be more likely to activate inhibitory processes in quail than in rats.