Influence of nest box design and nesting material on ectoparasite load for four woodland passerines

Blunsden, Thomas P and Goodenough, Anne E ORCID: 0000-0002-7662-6670 (2023) Influence of nest box design and nesting material on ectoparasite load for four woodland passerines. Bird Study, 70 (1-2). pp. 25-36. doi:10.1080/00063657.2023.2190081

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Capsule: Abundance of haematophagous ectoparasites in woodland passerine nests is influenced by complex interactions between nest box design, bird species, amount of nesting material, and nest composition. Aims: To analyse ectoparasite abundance relative to nest box design (old wooden nest boxes present for ≥ 3 years vs new wooden nest boxes of the same dimensions vs deep wooden nest boxes designed to reduce predation risk) and bird species (Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus, Great Tit Parus major, Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, and European Nuthatch Sitta europaea). The potential influence of amount of nesting material and nest composition was also studied. Methods: After fledging, nests were collected from nest boxes. Ectoparasites and nest materials were identified and quantified. Generalised Linear Modeling was used to examine the influence of nest box design, bird species, amount of nest material, and nest composition on ectoparasite loads. Akaike’s Information Criterion was used to select optimal models. Results: Abundance of Hen Fleas Ceratophyllus gallinae and parasitic Blowfly Protocalliphora was significantly higher for deep nest boxes than nest boxes of standard dimensions. Old nest boxes had significantly higher loads than new nest boxes, despite thorough cleaning between breeding seasons. Hen Flea abundance was highest in Nuthatch nests. Blowfly abundance was highest in Pied Flycatcher nests. Abundance of both fleas and blowfly was positively related to nest mass and amount of animal hair in the nest, and, for parasitic Blowfly, was negatively related to amount of tree bark. Conclusion: Ectoparasite load depends not only on bird species but also nest box design and nesting material. We recommend: (1) nest boxes are regularly replaced to reduce parasite load; (2) deep nest boxes are not used as the large nests constructed not only removes anti-predator benefits of eggs/chicks being harder to reach but are also associated with high haematophagous ectoparasite loads.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cavity-nesting; Hen Flea; Blowfly; Tit; Flycatcher; Nuthatch
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QL Zoology > QL605 Chordates. Vertebrates > QL671-699 Birds
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Anna Kerr
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2022 11:06
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2024 04:15

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