Parents adjust feeding effort in relation to nestling age in the Eurasian Kestrel (<i>Falco tinnunculus</i>)
In altricial birds, parents are assumed to optimize the total food delivery to the brood given the time constraints set by self-feeding and food collecting. Older nestlings may require more food than younger ones, and nestlings may need more energy when their growth rate is higher. By video monitoring prey deliveries in ten nests of the Eurasian Kestrel ( Falco tinnunculus ), we examined whether parents adjusted feeding effort in relation to nestling age. Based on published data on the growth and energy intake of Kestrel nestlings, we predicted parental prey mass delivery to peak at a nestling age of 15–17 days. The prediction was supported. The decrease in provisioning rate during the later nestling stages was best explained by nestling age. However, we cannot be conclusive as to whether this was caused by a decrease in nestling food demand, or by a seasonal decrease in the availability of voles, the dominant prey. The change in provisioning was mostly an effect of a change in the number of prey items delivered. However, prey size also tended to decrease with increasing nestling age. This is opposite to what has been found in most non-raptorial altricial birds, and may have been caused by the ability of Kestrel parents to dismember large prey and thus overcome the gape size-restricted swallowing capacity of small nestlings, together with a need to provide smaller prey to older nestlings when they start to feed unassisted.