In many songbirds, the nesting period for a breeding attempt is extremely short, often lasting only a few weeks. Breeding adults can shorten this period by decreasing the number of eggs laid or reducing the length of the nestling period. Nestling-period length has received little attention in the literature but could have profound effects on annual fecundity, because each day represents a risk of nest depredation. Consequently, we were interested in assessing the biotic and abiotic factors that govern the nestling period in the Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla). We provide evidence that food availability, more than predation pressure and climatic factors, influences nestling-period length, with increases in food availability decreasing the nestling period. We suggest that the nestling period is dictated by physiological constraints, which may be influenced by food availability and, thus, the ability to provision young. However, the greatest variation in nestling period was individual variation among breeding pairs. Thus, we believe that large-scale variation in ecological and environmental factors may determine the physiological constraints of the nestling period but parental behavior and quality within this framework dictate the actual length of the nestling period.
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Vol. 127 • No. 1