Studies of avian host–parasite interactions rarely include consequences of relationships among hosts for either the host or parasite species. In this study, we examine the ectoparasitic burden of adult and nestling European bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) and rock sparrows (Petronia petronia) in a mixed colony. We found that (1) each bird species had its own species of lice; (2) hematophagous mites parasitized both adults and nestlings of both bird species; (3) Carnus hemapterus, a common parasite of nestling bee-eaters, also infested rock sparrow nestlings, a species not previously described as a host for this dipteran; and (4) whereas C. hemapterus did not show high host specificity within the colony, the emergence of adult flies was synchronized with the start of hatching in bee-eater nests. We suggest that coexistence of these 2 bird species results in parasite exchange, bee-eaters obtaining mites from sparrows and sparrows becoming infested by C. hemapterus. Differences in the detrimental effects of parasite transfer for each host species may result in a process of apparent competition mediated by shared parasites. Interspecific parasite exchange is an important aspect of host–parasite relationships in mixed colonies, which requires further attention.

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