Intracranial implantation of minute pellets of gonadal steroids was combined with aromatase inhibitor treatment to determine if aromatization within the preoptic area (POA) is necessary for androgens to activate sexual behavior in the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). In this species, implantation of pellets of testosterone propionate (TP) or estradiol benzoate (EB) in the POA of castrated males restores male-typical copulatory behavior. In Experiment 1, adult male castrated quail were implanted intracranially with 200-micrograms pellets of equimolar mixtures of crystalline TP + cholesterol (CHOL), TP + 1,4,6-androstatriene-3,17-dione (ATD, an aromatase inhibitor), EB + ATD, or CHOL and behavior-tested with intact males and females. Copulation was stimulated by POA implants containing TP or EB (three of six CHOL + TP males and two of seven ATD + EB males copulated vs zero of four CHOL males), but copulation was not inhibited by combining ATD with TP (three of four ATD + TP males copulated). In Experiment 2, adult male castrated quail were injected systemically with ATD or oil for 6 days prior to and 14 days after intracranial implantation of 200-micrograms pellets containing the same amounts of TP or EB as in Experiment 1. The ATD injections completely blocked copulatory behavior in males with TP implants in the POA such that ATD/TP and Oil/TP mount frequencies differed significantly, but failed to block copulation in males with EB implants in the POA (proportions of males copulating were ATD/EB, 6/8; ATD/TP, 0/6; Oil/TP, 4/7). The cloacal foam gland, an androgen-sensitive secondary sex character, was unaffected by the dose of ATD used. We conclude that activation of copulatory behavior by TP implants in the POA is not due to nonspecific effects of high local testosterone concentrations but rather to aromatization. These results support the hypothesis that cells within the POA aromatize testosterone to estrogens, which directly stimulate the cellular processes leading to activation of male-typical copulatory behavior.