, Volume 112, Issue 4, pp 514-517

High blowfly parasitic loads affect breeding success in a Mediterranean population of blue tits

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The detrimental effects of ectoparasites on the breeding success of birds have been especially well demonstrated in the case of ectoparasites that affect both chicks and their parents. Since blowfly larvae of the genus Protocalliphora attack only nestling birds, they represent a good model for testing the consequences of parasitism on nestlings. A Corsican population of blue tit suffers extremely high rates of infestation by blowflies, which are suspected to negatively affect young birds. Comparing experimentally deparasitized (treated) and naturally infested (control) broods, we showed that the attack by Protocalliphora causes anaemia and an important disturbance to the chicks. Therefore, we expected that these effects would have a negative impact on body condition and survival in the infested broods. Although we did not find any effect of treatment on fledging success, our predictions were confirmed by lower growth rate, body mass at fledging and tarsus length at fledging in the control compared with the treated group. This suggests that in this population, blowflies decrease the probability of recruitment of young blue tits.

Received: 6 May 1997 / Accepted: 14 July 1997