ABSTRACT

Quill mites of the family Syringophilidae (Acariformes: Prostigmata) are permanent ectoparasites that live inside the hollow quills of feathers and use their long chelicerae to pierce the quill wall to feed on living tissue of the quill follicle. Ovenbirds (Parulidae: Seiurus aurocapilla (Linnaeus)) are host to the quill mite Betasyringophiloidus seiuri (Clark), which has been previously reported to infest only 5.1% of this host's tail feathers; however, this species has also been reported to inhabit the wing feathers of ovenbirds, but without any data on prevalence or intensity. We examined all 1,008 flight feathers from 21 dead ovenbirds from Canada for quill mites and calculated infestation parameters per feather location. Nine of the 21 birds were infested with mites (prevalence of 42.9%). Feathers with the highest prevalence were Primaries 1 and 2 and Secondaries 1, 2, and 5. Only 2 of the 9 infested birds had mites in their tail feathers; in each case, only a single feather was infested. Mean intensity was 28.4 mites/feather with a range of 2–135.6, and ∼88% of the adult mites were female. To determine if quill volume and quill wall thickness correlated with mite presence and abundance, we took quill measurements from the flight feathers of 3 additional ovenbirds. There was a strong positive correlation between quill volume and mean mite intensity. Feathers that had quill walls thicker in some areas than the mites' extended chelicerae had lower prevalences than did feathers with walls consistently thinner than the length of the chelicerae. We conclude that B. seiuri is much more likely to be found in wing than in tail feathers and that it has greater reproductive success in quills with both large volumes and thin walls; however, whether foundress mites preferentially choose to colonize these feathers requires more study.

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