Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 147, Issue 1, pp 115–118 | Cite as

A non-invasive technique to bleed incubating birds without trapping: a blood-sucking bug in a hollow egg

  • Peter H. Becker
  • Christian C. Voigt
  • Jennifer M. Arnold
  • Rolf Nagel
Short Note


We describe a non-invasive technique to obtain blood samples from incubating birds without trapping and handling. A larval instar of the blood-sucking bug Dipetalogaster maximus (Heteroptera) was put in a hollowed artificial egg which was placed in a common tern (Sterna hirundo) nest. A gauze-covered hole in the egg allowed the bug to draw blood from the brood patch of breeding adults. We successfully collected 68 blood samples of sufficient amount (median=187 μl). The daily success rate was highest during the early breeding season and averaged 34% for all trials. We could not detect any visible response by the incubating bird to the sting of the bug. This technique allows for non-invasive blood collection from bird species of various sizes without disturbance.


Artificial egg Blood-sucking bug Incubating birds Non-invasive bleeding Sterna hirundo 



The research was done under licence of the Untere Naturschutzbehörde der Stadt Wilhelmshaven and of the Niedersächsisches Landesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit, Oldenburg. We thank S. Oswald, J. Wieland, G. Wagenknecht, A. Braasch, T. Ezard, and M. Martínez Benito for their help with the field work, and TERRAMARE for presenting temperature data. The study was supported by the DFG (BE 916/8–2) and by a grant of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to J.M. Arnold.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter H. Becker
    • 1
  • Christian C. Voigt
    • 2
  • Jennifer M. Arnold
    • 3
  • Rolf Nagel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Vogelforschung “Vogelwarte Helgoland”WilhelmshavenGermany
  2. 2.Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife ResearchBerlinGermany
  3. 3.USGS Patuxent Wildlife RefugeLaurelUSA

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