Feather mites, pectoral muscle condition, wing length and plumage coloration of passerines

Harper, David G C (1999) Feather mites, pectoral muscle condition, wing length and plumage coloration of passerines. Animal Behaviour, 58 (3). pp. 553-562. ISSN 0003-3472

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I compared the feather mite (Acari, Proctophyllodidae) loads of moulting birds with features of the new plumage that they were growing. I examined 21 samples, each sample containing individuals of the same species, sex and age class (juvenile, yearling or adult). I used nine species: wren, Troglodytes troglodytes; dunnock, Prunella modularis; robin, Erithacus rubecula; blue tit, Parus caeruleus; great tit, P. major; chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs; greenfinch, Carduelis chloris; linnet, C. cannabina; and yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella. As previously reported for the house finch, Carpodacus mexicanus, birds with more feather mites grew duller plumage and relatively shorter wings than less infested individuals of the same sex and age class. They also had lower protein reserves judged by the shape of their pectoral muscle. Mite load was usually a better predictor of coloration than pectoral muscle score, but the opposite was true for changes in wing length. In contrast to house finches, birds whose plumage was dull before moult had higher mite loads while moulting. Even if feather mites do not cause dull. plumage or short wings, they appear to be a good indicator of birds in poor physiological condition.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Part 3
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: David Harper
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:04
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2012 13:26
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/19247
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