Describing and Quantifying the Relative Abundance of the Ectoparasite Community in Golden Eagle Nests

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Ian Robertson, Julie Heath, Benjamin Dudek


We described and quantified the abundance of ectoparasites in golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) nests during the eagle’s nesting period. Hematophagous ectoparasites, which suck blood from their hosts, negatively impact nestling development and survival through bite-induced stress, anemia and loss of mass. We were particularly interested in the abundance of Haematosiphon inodorus (Mexican chicken bug), a relative of bed bugs that has been linked to nestling mortality in other raptor species in Idaho. Through collection and quantification, we hoped to gain insight regarding the relative abundance of H. inodorus and other nest ectoparasites. Our research involved sorting through golden eagle nest material samples to identify and quantify ectoparasites. Nest samples were collected in June of 2016, and insects were collected from these samples using a Berlese light funnel trap. We then sifted through each sample manually to locate specimens missed by the funnel collection. Specimens were identified, recorded, and preserved. H. inodorus specimens were catalogued and pinned to create a collection of voucher specimens. Undamaged specimens of each species were photographed to create a reference library. These methods allowed us to obtain a comprehensive description of the ectoparasite community, as well as validate Berlese light funnel traps as a method for collecting insects from nest material.

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