Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 379–386

Facultative sex ratio manipulation in American kestrels


  • Karen L. Wiebe
    • Department of BiologyUniversity of Saskatchewan
  • Gary R. Bortolotti
    • Department of BiologyUniversity of Saskatchewan

DOI: 10.1007/BF00176172

Cite this article as:
Wiebe, K.L. & Bortolotti, G.R. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1992) 30: 379. doi:10.1007/BF00176172


For animals that are sexually dimorphic in size, the larger sex is expected to be more costly to raise to independence. Manipulating offspring sex ratios may thus be one means by which parents can fine-tune their reproductive effort to resource availability. Parents in poor physical condition or during poor food years should produce more of the cheaper (smaller) sex. We examined the sex ratios of 259 broods of American kestrels (Falco sparverius) between 1988 and 1990 in relation to food abundance (small mammals) and various attributes to the parents. The proportion of males at hatching increased as the food supply declined, and both male and female parents in poor physical condition were more likely to have male-biased broods than those in good condition. The mortality of eggs and young did not appear to be responsible for the biased sex ratios. The sex ratio was independent of the laying date; however, it was correlated with female body size. Small females produced more sons, perhaps because small size is more detrimental for females than males.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992