In a heterogeneous landscape, birds must evaluate environmental cues that signal the fitness benefits to be gained from a breeding site. Little study has been devoted to the factors that influence settlement decisions and their implications for breeding in northern populations of American kestrels. We examined nest-site selection and reproductive investment and success of this species in relation to the abundance of small mammals from 1990 to 1997 and territory and nest-site attributes in 2008. Nest-site selection was not associated with prey abundance; however, females initiated laying earlier on territories with higher prey abundance. Kestrels were more likely to choose nest boxes with unobstructed entrances and in recently harvested forests and laid clutches of lower volume in forests with a heavier deciduous component. Nestling mass (females) was greater in boxes at the forest edge and on jack pine, and feather lengths (males) were greater in nests on trees in poor health. We discuss the importance of these features for provisioning and nest vigilance and propose that kestrels in our area make decisions based on interactions occurring at scales intermediate to the landscape and territory levels.
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Vol. 18 • No. 2