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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2005

Effect of the blood-sucking mite Ornithonyssus bursa on chick growth and fledging age in the North Island robin

Berggren, A


Pathological consequences of the blood-sucking mite Ornithonyssus bursa vary between species, with its impact ranging from no measurable effect, to significant blood loss and chick mortality. In New Zealand, where several bird species are known to be parasitised by O.bursa, the effect of this mite on host fitness is unclear, as few studies have been carried out. During a three-year study of the North Island robin Petroica longipes on Tiritiri Matangi Island, the prevalence of O.bursa in robin nests and on chicks and its impact on robin chick growth and survival was measured. The presence of mites was correlated with both time of the season and humidity of the habitat, with infestation being positively correlated with later nesting attempts and more humid microclimates. Robin chicks in infested nests were significantly smaller and fledged at an earlier age than chicks in nests where no mites were detected. Despite this effect, no significant difference in body size or survival was detected between the two groups at one month post-fledging. This was most likely because chicks from mite-infested nests compensated for their retarded growth once they left the nest environment. On mainland New Zealand, where ground-dwelling mammalian predators are present, chicks forced to leave the nest at an earlier age with less developed flying skills may be at an increased risk of predation

Published in

New Zealand Journal of Ecology
2005, Volume: 29, number: 2, pages: 243-250

      SLU Authors

    • Berggren, Åsa

      • Department of Entomology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

    Permanent link to this page (URI)