Ectoparasite sharing among native and invasive birds in a metropolitan area.
Parasite-mediated competition has been reported to be one of the most harmful, although overlooked, impacts that alien species have on native ecosystems. Monk parakeets Myiopsitta monachus are successful invaders in Europe, where they have been introduced from South America. Colonial nests of these parrots may also host other species, e.g. the rock pigeon Columba livia forma domestica. In this work, we analysed the ectoparasite composition of monk parakeets in Barcelona (Spain) and we evaluated their potential role as parasite-mediated competitors, by comparing their parasitic load with that of coexisting rock pigeons. Only two arthropod species were observed on monk parakeets, whereas four species were detected on pigeons. Parakeets were rarely infested by pigeon parasites (prevalence=0.66%), whereas parakeet mites were recorded more often on pigeons (prevalence=10.00%). The number of total parasites per bird increased with increasing densities of monk parakeets, both for pigeons and for parakeets. Therefore, overcrowding of birds due to the increasing population of monk parakeets in Barcelona may affect the health status of native pigeons, suggesting a potential role for parasite mediated competition by introduced parakeets. Furthermore, spill-over of alien mites (Ornithonyssus bursa) by monk parakeets to rock pigeons should be monitoring as it may affect human health.