Article: article from journal or magazin.
Ectoparasite affects choice and use of roost sites in the great tit, Parus major
Many diurnal bird species roost at night in holes. As a regular visitor of a hole they are therefore a welcome host for several species of ectoparasites. The interactions of ectoparasites with the behaviour, life-history traits and population demography of their hosts are largely unknown. In the present study the effects of the haematophagous hen flea, Ceratophyllus gallinae , on the great tit's choice of winter roost site were investigated experimentally. Three experiments tested (1) whether great tits prefer a clean nestbox to one containing an old, but parasite-free nest, (2) whether they prefer a parasite-free nestbox to one infested with the haematophagous hen flea, and (3) whether they prefer not to use a nestbox when there is only an infested box available in their territory. In the first experiment there was no discrimination and both kinds of boxes were used equally often. In the second experiment the great tits clearly preferred to roost in the box without ectoparasites. In the third experiment a significantly higher proportion of the infested nestboxes were not used for roosting compared with the parasite-free boxes. Recently the validity of the conclusions drawn from nestbox studies where the naturally occurring detrimental ectoparasites are eliminated by the routine removal of old nests between breeding seasons has been questioned. This study shows that ectoparasites affect host behaviour and therefore lends support to that criticism.
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