Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 355–362 | Cite as

Determinants of parental effort: a behavioural study in the Eurasian kestrel, Falco tinnunculus

  • Pasi Tolonen
  • Erkki Korpimäki


We recorded behaviour of kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) in western Finland during the courtship (1988–1992), incubation (1989–1991), early nestling (age of young 1–2 weeks, 1989–1992) and late nestling stages (3–4 weeks, 1989–1991) to examine determinants of their parental effort (PE). In males, PE was estimated as the hunting effort (the proportion of budget time spent in flight-hunting) and in females as the food provisioning rate (number of prey items delivered to the nest per hour). The following predictions derived from the parental investment theory were examined. (1) Parents rearing large clutches and broods should invest more in breeding than do parents rearing small clutches and broods. The hunting effort of parents did not increase with clutch or brood size, but males tending large broods had a higher prey delivery rate than males tending small broods (Figs 1–2). (2) PE of parents should increase in the course of the breeding season. In males, this was true only between the incubation and early nestling phases (Fig. 3). (3) The early pairs should invest more in breeding than late ones. This tended to be true during the early (for males) and late nestling phases (for females) (Fig. 4). (4) There should be a negative correlation between PE of mates within pairs, but no evidence for such adjustment was found (Fig. 5). (5) Females mated with bright-coloured attractive males should show higher PE than females mated with dull-coloured males but our results were inconsistent with this prediction. We conclude that PE decisions of kestrels are mainly based on cost-benefit estimates of residual reproductive value, rather than on current investment indicators, like clutch or brood size. This might be beneficial in environments with highly variable survival prospects of offspring caused by pronounced among-year variation in abundance of the main food (microtine rodents). The results also show that hypotheses explaining variation in PE in the short term are not necessarily valid for long-term PE, e.g. tending clutches or broods, which also reflects the demands of female and young.

Key words

Falco tinnunculus Parental effort Cost-benefit analysis Residual reproductive value Current investment 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pasi Tolonen
    • 1
  • Erkki Korpimäki
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.Laboratory of Ecological Zoology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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