Breeding in time with peak-prey abundance increases the odds that nestlings in a brood will accrue enough food to grow and fledge. Some altricial bird species, like American kestrels, initiate incubation before laying a full clutch, causing variance in the hatch dates of the eggs. Hatch-asynchrony advances the average hatch-date and promotes brood-reduction, both of which are adaptive if there is a mismatch between breeding and peak prey abundance.
My research would address how American kestrel fitness is affected by this phenological mismatch. I will monitor and measure – both in person and remotely through cameras – the productivity and hatch-asynchrony of American kestrels nesting on military bases in 10 different states across the country. Using long-term data sets from the Western, Midwestern, and Eastern flyways, I will create a spatially-explicit Cormack-Jolly-Seber survival model for American kestrels that will take into account observer bias, detection error, and dispersal probability.