An ambient temperature of 30 degrees C compared to 18 degrees C accelerated the increase in serum prolactin (Prl) level induced by photostimulation of female turkeys. The contribution of reproductive stage and nesting behavior to this serum Prl elevation was assessed by housing adult female turkeys in individual wire cages while allowing other females free access to nests on the floor. Birds of both groups were exposed to 10 degrees C, 24 degrees C or 30 degrees C beginning 4 wk prior to photostimulation and continuing throughout the reproductive phase. Lapsed time between the onset of photostimulation and onset of sexual maturity, and between the onset of sexual maturity and onset of incubation behavior was shorter in birds housed at 30 degrees C with access to nests than in corresponding birds housed at 24 degrees C and 10 degrees C. The increases in serum Prl associated with sexual maturity or incubation behavior occurred at a greater rate in the birds maintained at 30 degrees C. Cage-reared birds had the same lapsed time between onset of photostimulation and onset of sexual maturity and the same sustained low Prl level regardless of ambient temperature exposure. All groups exhibited similar luteinizing hormone profiles. These findings indicate that the accelerated increase in Prl under elevated temperature in floor-reared turkeys is related to accelerated development of reproductive function, and not the direct effect of ambient temperature on mechanisms controlling Prl.