We analysed clutch size versus nest size in 153 broods of the Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus, a woodpecker using natural cavities in British Columbia, Canada. Larger volume cavities were less susceptible to predation and cavity size was positively associated with the age and body size of males and with the body condition of female parents. Although clutches varied between 4 and 11 eggs, and the floor area of cavities varied about 5-fold, we found no relationship between clutch size and floor area or cavity volume. To see if there were fitness consequences to clutch size relative to nest size, we examined hatching success and nestling mortality in flicker broods. Hatching success was not related to cavity size, but crowding slightly reduced nestling survival even when clutch size was controlled statistically. However, there was no effect of cavity size on the total number of nestlings fledged. Newly excavated flicker cavities were smaller than reused cavities suggesting a cost to excavation. This cost, coupled with the minimal fitness consequences of overcrowding, may explain why flickers do not adjust clutch size to cavity size.
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