SciCombinator

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Concept: Myiarchus

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An incidental observation of the fly Philornis downsi parasitizing a Galapagos Flycatcher (Myiarchus magnirostris) nest has revealed new insights into the searching behavior and biology of this invasive fly parasite and its interactions with endemic land birds in the Galapagos Islands. Observations suggest that P. downsi relies on olfactory cues, or olfactory cues combined with the activity of adult birds, to locate nests and that flies continue to visit nests when chicks are >3 d old. At least 200 eggs were laid by P. downsi in different parts of the nest and >40 early-instar larvae were found inside the head of one chick, with additional larvae found in the base of the nest. Parasitism was the likely cause of mortality of both chicks found in or near the nest. This is the first published description of P. downsi parasitizing chicks of M. magnirostris and highlights the vulnerability of this endemic bird species to this invasive fly.

Concepts: Insect, Bird, Parasitism, Flies, Fly, Charles Darwin, Commensalism, Myiarchus

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Birds breeding in heterogeneous landscapes select nest sites by cueing in on a variety of factors from landscape features and social information to the presence of natural enemies. We focus on determining the relative impact of anthropogenic noise on nest site occupancy, compared to amount of forest cover, which is known to strongly influence the selection process. We examine chronic, industrial noise from natural gas wells directly measured at the nest box as well as site-averaged noise, using a well-established field experimental system in northwestern New Mexico. We hypothesized that high levels of noise, both at the nest site and in the environment, would decrease nest box occupancy. We set up nest boxes using a geospatially paired control and experimental site design and analyzed four years of occupancy data from four secondary cavity-nesting birds common to the Colorado Plateau. We found different effects of noise and landscape features depending on species, with strong effects of noise observed in breeding habitat selection of Myiarchus cinerascens, the Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Sialia currucoides, the Mountain Bluebird. In contrast, the amount of forest cover less frequently explained habitat selection for those species or had a smaller standardized effect than the acoustic environment. Although forest cover characterization and management is commonly employed by natural resource managers, our results show that characterizing and managing the acoustic environment should be an important tool in protected area management.

Concepts: Ecology, Natural environment, Natural resource, Nest, Mountain Bluebird, Bluebird, Nest box, Myiarchus