#Parasiteweek: Bird Blood-suckers

August 10, 2016

Ventral (underside) view
Dorsal (top) view


We have written before about bird louse flies (hippoboscids), but I never get tired of their flat, creepy look. Recently, our ornithology collections manager, Kimball Garrett, contacted me and said "Hey, Brian, are you interested in some hippoboscids from a least bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) from Malibu",- of course I was, what an unusual host from which to get hippos (what us entomologists endearingly call them)!

Let me note here that although they are called "bird louse flies, they are actually more like fleas, with the ability to easily move from one host to another (unlike their wingless, more sedentary namesakes). They feed on the blood of their bird "hosts".

Anyway, keying them out with my trusty "Manual of Nearctic Diptera", I came easily to the name Ornithoica, of which there were supposed to be two North American species. Intrigued enough to continue further, I looked up the latest key to species (which was from 1966!) and confirmed that the 5 flies all belonged to the species Ornithoica confluenta, known only from South America, the Caribbean, and southern Florida. At least, that was their known distribution in 1966; things might have changed, but it is undoubtedly a rare record!

(Photos by Kelsey Bailey)

(Posted by: Brian V. Brown)

1 Comment

Hello, Is parasites part of citizen science? When read this article, wondered if the itchy bumps, usually a string of going up legs, were from being under trees. First thought were mosquito,but didnt think they could get under jeans. Its when in the yard near grape vine or natives, have seen coons and neighbor cats those places. Helps to put iodine on. Had been bit by a ?larvae of lace wind(really hurt/itches). Thanks for the articles.

Post new comment

Want to get updates for the NHMLA Nature Blog sent to your email ?

Sign up below and we'll send you the latest in L.A. Nature!



Seeking Swifts in L.A.

October 2, 2018