CFB Suffield and the problem of Swallows

Birding reports from our roving reporter, Lesser Spot Finder, in Alberta, Canada.
Lesser Spot Finder
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Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk
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CFB Suffield and the problem of Swallows

Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:17 pm

The Canadian Military at Suffield have had to remove Cliff Swallow nests from the accommodation following complaints from soldiers living within the blocks - complaints were based on noise levels and the amount of droppings on the windows and window ledges which could cause a health issue. The removal of nests occurred at the beginning of the season whilst they were being built and the Swallows moved on.

Subsequently there has been an issue that no-one saw coming. The block is now infested with bird mites which were in suspended animation during the winter period and would now have been living on their swallow hosts. The accommodation has now been evacuated and is currently in deep clean. Poetic justice? :wink:

Wandering Tattler
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HIRUNDINE PARASITES

Postby Wandering Tattler » Thu Jun 09, 2011 10:13 pm

Inadvertently the removal has probably saved the lives of many young hirundines.

In Northern Ireland I once found a fully fledged young House Martin on my doorstep. As I examined the very obliging little bird I noticed something moving amongst its neck feathers. As I watched curiously the little martin closed its eyes and appeared to go to sleep but within seconds it slumped forward and died. The whole episode had taken about 20 -30 seconds and I thought that perhaps my presence had caused the small bird to die from shock. Over the next few seconds, as I looked down on this poor unfortunate bird the cause of the moving feathers emerged - lice! Much bigger than I had expected on such a small host and these obviously hungry parasites were rapidly abandoning the corpse and looking for their next victim. I hope that the G4 guys can sort out the accommodation quickly and I hope that the parasites are mites as opposed to lice because you would be horrified to discover bird lice on you. I am sure that the ringers must have a view on bird parasites.

Good to see that you caught up with Northern Rough-wing Swallow in Medicine Hat and good look with Violet-green Swallow at Waterton. Cracking green swallow, similar to a Tree Swallow with white extending over the eye.

Lesser Spot Finder
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Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:25 am
Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk
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Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Fri Jun 10, 2011 3:08 pm

Tim,

They are lice and not mites. The Doc tells me this is an annual issue and previously they had been warned not to clear nests to avoid such an issue. I have googled bird lice and apparently Hirundines are top of the list of hosts.

Wandering Tattler
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Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 4:57 pm
Location: Beverley, East Yorkshire
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HIRUNDINE PARASITES

Postby Wandering Tattler » Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:32 pm

I have had a look into the parasites that I saw on the House Martin, almost 20 years ago in Northern Ireland. It looks as though they were wingless Louse Flies (Crataerina hirundinis), not lice. The lice are about 3mm or smaller, the Louse Flies were 2-3 times the size.


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