Cannibalism of nestling American kestrels by their parents and siblings

Canadian Journal of Zoology
By: , and 



We examined the frequency of cannibalism of nestling American kestrels (Falco sparverius) in north-central Saskatchewan. We investigated human disturbance and food shortages as possible causes of it. Cannibalism of nestlings by their parents and siblings was confirmed by observation and by the presence of partially eaten carcasses, or inferred from the sudden disappearance of a nestling between frequent nest checks. Cannibalism occurred at 8% of 48 nests in 1988, and 18% of 92 nests in 1989. Not all nestlings that died were cannibalized. Where nestling mortality occurred, carcasses were eaten in at least 20% of nests in 1988, and 63% of nests in 1989. The chicks that were cannibalized died at a significantly younger age than those that died but were not cannibalized. The mass and age of the parent and the laying date were not associated with the occurrence of cannibalism. We found no strong evidence of a causal link between human disturbance and nestling mortality or cannibalism; however, the abundance of small mammal prey was inversely related to the frequency of cannibalism between years, and there were fewer prey and lower prey delivery rates in territories where cannibalism occurred than in territories where nestling mortality did not occur. The fact that some nestlings died but were not eaten suggests that such mortality was unrelated to food shortages. The food advantage of cannibalism may not outweigh potential disadvantages such as disease transmission.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Cannibalism of nestling American kestrels by their parents and siblings
Series title Canadian Journal of Zoology
DOI 10.1139/z91-205
Volume 69
Issue 6
Year Published 1991
Language English
Publisher National Research Council
Publisher location Ottawa
Description 7 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Canadian Journal of Zoology
First page 1447
Last page 1453
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