Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Influence of colony traits on ectoparasite infestation in birds breeding in mixed-species colonies.

Abstract

Coloniality in birds is often associated with an increase in parasite burden, but whether the co-occurrence of several host species influences the prevalence and abundance of ectoparasites and their relationship with colony size or density remains poorly known. Here, we studied mixed-species breeding colonies formed after the provision of artificial breeding structures for restoring the lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) population in Portugal, to investigate the influence of colony traits on ectoparasite infestation. We sampled four groups of ectoparasites (carnid flies, haematophagous mites, louse flies and chewing lice) in four hosts: lesser kestrels, European rollers (Coracias garrulus), feral pigeons (Columba livia) and spotless starlings (Sturnus unicolor). Each host species had a distinct infracommunity of ectoparasites, regardless of colony traits such as size, density or host richness. The abundance of the most common ectoparasite, Carnus hemapterus, was influenced by colony composition - number of nests of each host species - rather than by colony size or density, with its abundance being diluted with increasing numbers of less suitable hosts such as starlings. The increased contact between multiple species of hosts in breeding colonies may complexify host-parasite interactions and challenge our current knowledge on the ecological relationships between host sociality and parasitism.