Do secretions from the uropygial gland of birds attract biting midges and black flies?
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Bird susceptibility to attacks by blood-sucking flying insects could be influenced by urogypial gland secretions. To determine the effect of these secretions on biting midges and black flies, we set up a series of tests. First, we placed uropygial gland secretions from blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus broods inside empty nest boxes while empty nest boxes without gland secretions were treated as controls. Blue tit broods, from which we had obtained uropygial secretions, were affected by biting midges and black flies. However, these insects were absent in nest boxes both with and without secretions from nestlings’ uropygial glands. We subsequently tested for the effects of uropygial gland secretions from feral pigeons Columba livia monitoring the number of biting midges captured using miniature CDC traps. There was no significant difference in the number of biting midges captured. Overall, our results did not support a potential role of avian uropygial gland secretions in attracting biting midges and black flies.
Financial support was provided by projects CGL2009-09439 and AGL 2009–11944 from Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación. Junta de Castilla y León authorized the ringing and handling of birds in Valsaín. We also extend our gratitude to Javier Donés (Director of “Montes de Valsaín”) for permission to work in Valsaín. Excmo. Ayuntamiento de Arucas authorized the handling of pigeons. J.M.P. was supported by a postdoctoral grant from the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. We thank N. Castro, I. Moreno, A. Morales and L. Hernández for their help. An anonymous reviewer and A P. Møller considerably improved a previous version of the manuscript. We specially thank Heather Briggs for checking the English. This study is a contribution to the research partially developed at “El Ventorrillo” field station.
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