Lack of experience in young adult birds may exacerbate the costs of parental care. Thus, birds may modify their behavior over time to balance the costs and benefits of parental care. We observed a population of Spizella pusilla (Field Sparrow) with individuals of known age and identity over multiple years to examine how age of parents affected feeding rates and overall nesting success. Parents fed larger and older broods at higher rates. Feeding rates of paired individuals were also correlated with one another. However, males provisioned offspring at a consistently faster rate than females. Ordinal date and year were the only factors that influenced nest success, with nests failing more frequently early in the summer. These findings may indicate that environmental factors—and less so intrinsic factors—may dictate overall nest success. Although we were unable to detect an effect of parent age on feeding rates, our ability to detect such trends is likely limited by considerable behavioral variation in the population and relatively few birds that were monitored across consecutive years.
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Vol. 26 • No. 3