We used video cameras in 2008–2009 to record provisioning activities at Dickcissel (Spiza americana) nests in and around Conservation Reserve Program field buffers in north-central Mississippi, USA. We simultaneously observed foraging flight distances of parents. Provisioning rate (P = 0.412), biomass (P = 0.161), and foraging distance (P = 0.159) did not increase with nestling age. Parents delivered larger items to meet demand associated with older nestlings (P = 0.010–0.001). This suggests energetic costs of changes in prey selection were less than costs of increasing the number or distance of provisioning trips. Presence of male helpers increased provisioning rate (P < 0.001) but not biomass (P = 0.992) because males brought smaller prey items (P = 0.001–0.021). Presence of observers 30 m from the nest reduced provisioning rates (P = 0.005) and biomass delivered (P = 0.066). Lack of habitat effects for any aspect of provisioning suggests grass field buffers provided nestling food resources similar to surrounding habitats. Use of continuous video monitoring of nest activity allows well-concealed activities including provisioning and male helping to be directly observed and better quantified.
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Vol. 124 • No. 2