Relative influence of male and female care in determining nestling mass in a migratory songbird

Kirk W. Stodola, Eric T. Linder, David A. Buehler, Kathleen E. Franzreb, Daniel H. Kim, Robert J. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biparental care is common in birds, with the allocation of effort being highly variable between the sexes. In most songbird species, the female typically provides the most care early in the breeding cycle with both parents providing care when provisioning young. Food provisioning should be directly related to offspring quality; however, the relative influence each parent has on offspring quality has rarely been assessed at the nest level. Consequently, we were interested in assessing the relative influence male and female provisioning has on one measurement of offspring quality, nestling mass, in the black-throated blue warbler Dendroica caerulescens. Over a six year period, 2003-2008, we collected information on average nestling mass per brood on day 6 of the nestling cycle and parental provisioning rates on day 7 of the nestling cycle from 182 first brood nests on three different study plots. We found that average nestling mass was directly related to male provisioning rate, while it was not related to female provisioning rate. On the other hand, estimated biomass provisioned had little influence on average nestling mass, calling into question its utility in assessing parental quality. Finally, there was some indication that parental influence on average nestling mass was dependent on the other parent's provisioning rate, suggesting that parents work in concert to influence nestling quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-522
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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