Key wordsFalco sparverius
Hatching asynchrony Food supply
American kestrel nestling growth
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Food supply and hatching asynchrony were manipulated for 90 broods of American kestrels (Falco sparverius) during 1989–1991. We measured the growth and mortality of nestlings within four treatment groups (asynchronous, synchronous, food-supplemented, unsupplemented) to test the brood reduction hypothesis of Lack (1947, 1954). Fledging success did not differ between synchronous and asynchronous broods when food was poor but consistent with the brood reduction hypothesis, nestlings died at a younger age in asynchronous broods. When food was supplemented, mortality did not occur in the synchronous broods but youngest nestlings still died in asynchronous nests despite apparently adequate food for the brood. Oldest nestlings in asynchronous broods fledged with a greater mass than their younger siblings, also consistent with Lack’s hypothesis. Average nestling quality in synchronous broods was very dependent on food levels. Synchronous young that were supplemented were, on average, the heaviest of any treatment group but young from unsupplemented synchronous broods were the lightest. Overall, patterns of mortality and growth for kestrels support the brood reduction hypothesis when food is limited, but not when it is abundant. This food-dependent benefit of asynchrony in the nestling period is a prerequisite for facultatively adjusted hatching spans during laying.
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