The moorhen flea (Dasypsyllus gallinulae) is a flea originating from South America. It is now a globally widespread. It is a large flea, easily identified because the male has two heavy horn-like spines on one of the genital flaps, and the female has a deep "bite" on the seventh sternite.
It is found in bird nests, and is more likely to be found on the bird's body than, say, the chicken flea, which is normally found in the nest. The moorhen flea's many hosts include the common moorhen, Eurasian woodcock, grouse, European robin, goldcrest, willow tit, and Eurasian treecreeper.
|Male moorhen flea|
| Dasypsyllus gallinulae |
Ceratophyllus gallinae, known as the hen flea in Europe or the European chicken flea elsewhere, is an ectoparasite of birds. This flea was first described by the German botanist and entomologist Franz von Paula Schrank in 1803.Common firecrest
The common firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla) also known as the firecrest, is a very small passerine bird in the kinglet family. It breeds in most of temperate Europe and northwestern Africa, and is partially migratory, with birds from central Europe wintering to the south and west of their breeding range. Firecrests in the Balearic Islands and north Africa are widely recognised as a separate subspecies, but the population on Madeira, previously also treated as a subspecies, is now treated as a distinct species, the Madeira firecrest, Regulus madeirensis. A fossil ancestor of the firecrest has been identified from a single wing bone.
This kinglet is greenish above and has whitish underparts. It has two white wingbars, a black eye stripe and a white supercilium. The head crest, orange in the male and yellow in the female, is displayed during breeding, and gives rise to the English and scientific names for the species. This bird superficially resembles the goldcrest, which largely shares its European range, but the firecrest's bronze shoulders and strong face pattern are distinctive. The song is a repetition of high thin notes, slightly lower-pitched than those of its relative.
The common firecrest breeds in broadleaved or coniferous woodland and gardens, building its compact, three-layered nest on a tree branch. Seven to twelve eggs are incubated by the female alone. Both parents feed the chicks, which fledge 22–24 days after hatching. This kinglet is constantly on the move and frequently hovers as it searches for insects to eat, and in winter it is often found with flocks of tits. Despite some possible local declines, the species is not the subject of significant conservation concerns owing to its large European population and an expansion of its range over the last century. It may be hunted and killed by birds of prey, and can carry parasites. It is possible that this species was the original "king of the birds" in European folklore.Common gallinule
The common gallinule (Gallinula galeata) is a bird in the family Rallidae. It was split from the common moorhen by the American Ornithologists' Union in July 2011. It lives around well-vegetated marshes, ponds, canals, and other wetlands in the Americas. The species is not found in the polar regions or many tropical rainforests. Elsewhere, the common gallinule is likely the most commonly seen rail species in much of North America, excepting the American coot in some regions.Common moorhen
The common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (also known as the waterhen, the swamp chicken, and as the common gallinule) is a bird species in the family Rallidae. It is distributed across many parts of the Old World.The common moorhen lives around well-vegetated marshes, ponds, canals and other wetlands. The species is not found in the polar regions or many tropical rainforests. Elsewhere it is likely the most common rail species, except for the Eurasian coot in some regions.
The closely related common gallinule of the New World has been recognized as a separate species by most authorities, starting with the American Ornithologists' Union and the International Ornithological Committee in 2011.Dasypsyllus
Dasypsyllus is a widespread genus of fleas. Some of its members are found in bird nests, including the moorhen flea, D. gallinulae.Eurasian treecreeper
The Eurasian treecreeper or common treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) is a small passerine bird also known in the British Isles, where it is the only living member of its genus, simply as treecreeper. It is similar to other treecreepers, and has a curved bill, patterned brown upperparts, whitish underparts, and long stiff tail feathers which help it creep up tree trunks. It can be most easily distinguished from the similar short-toed treecreeper, which shares much of its European range, by its different song.
The Eurasian treecreeper has nine or more subspecies which breed in different parts of its range in temperate Eurasia. This species is found in woodlands of all kinds, but where it overlaps with the short-toed treecreeper in western Europe it is more likely to be found in coniferous forests or at higher altitudes. It nests in tree crevices or behind bark flakes, and favours introduced giant sequoia as nest sites where they are available. The female typically lays five or six pink-speckled white eggs in the lined nest, but eggs and chicks are vulnerable to attack by woodpeckers and mammals, including squirrels.
The Eurasian treecreeper is insectivorous and climbs up tree trunks like a mouse, to search for insects which it picks from crevices in the bark with its fine curved bill. It then flies to the base of another tree with a distinctive erratic flight. This bird is solitary in winter, but may form communal roosts in cold weather.Eurasian woodcock
The Eurasian woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) is a medium-small wading bird found in temperate and subarctic Eurasia. It has cryptic camouflage to suit its woodland habitat, with reddish-brown upperparts and buff-coloured underparts. Its eyes are set far back on its head to give it 360-degree vision and it probes in the ground for food with its long, sensitive bill, making it vulnerable to cold weather when the ground remains frozen.
The male performs a courtship flight known as 'roding' at dusk in spring. When threatened, the female can carry chicks between her legs, in her claws or on her back while flying, though this is rarely witnessed. The world population is estimated to be 14 million to 16 million birds.European robin
The European robin (Erithacus rubecula), known simply as the robin or robin redbreast in the British Isles, is a small insectivorous passerine bird, specifically a chat, that was formerly classified as a member of the thrush family (Turdidae) but is now considered to be an Old World flycatcher. About 12.5–14.0 cm (5.0–5.5 inches) in length, the male and female are similar in colouration, with an orange breast and face lined with grey, brown upperparts and a whitish belly. It is found across Europe, east to Western Siberia and south to North Africa; it is sedentary in most of its range except the far north.
The term robin is also applied to some birds in other families with red or orange breasts. These include the American robin (Turdus migratorius), which is a thrush, and the Australasian robins of the family Petroicidae, the relationships of which are unclear.Flea
Flea, the common name for the order Siphonaptera, includes 2,500 species of small flightless insects that survive as external parasites of mammals and birds. Fleas live by consuming blood or hematophagy, from their hosts. Adult fleas grow to about 3 mm or .12 in long, are usually brown, and have bodies that are "flattened" sideways, or narrow, enabling them to move through their host's fur or feathers. They lack wings, but have strong claws preventing them from being dislodged; mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood, and hind legs extremely well adapted for jumping. They are able to leap a distance of some 50 times their body length, a feat second only to jumps made by another group of insects, the superfamily of froghoppers. Fleas' larvae are worm-like with no limbs; they have chewing mouthparts and feed on organic debris left on their host's skin.
The Siphonaptera are most closely related to the snow scorpionflies, or snow fleas in the UK, formally the Boreidae, placing them within the Endopterygote insect order Mecoptera. Fleas arose in the early Cretaceous, most likely as ectoparasites of mammals, before moving on to other groups including birds. Each species of flea is more or less a specialist with respect to its host animal species: many species never breed on any other host, though some are less selective. Some families of fleas are exclusive to a single host group; for example, the Malacopsyllidae are found only on armadillos, the Ischnopsyllidae only on bats, and the Chimaeropsyllidae only on elephant shrews.
The oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis, is a vector of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium which causes bubonic plague. The disease was spread by rodents such as the black rat, which were bitten by fleas that then infected humans. Major outbreaks included the Plague of Justinian, c. 540 and the Black Death, c. 1350, both of which killed a sizeable fraction of the world's population.
Fleas appear in human culture in such diverse forms as flea circuses, poems like John Donne's erotic The Flea, works of music such as by Modest Mussorgsky, and a film by Charlie Chaplin.Goldcrest
The goldcrest (Regulus regulus) is a very small passerine bird in the kinglet family. Its colourful golden crest feathers, as well as being called the "king of the birds" in European folklore, gives rise to its English and scientific names. The scientific name, R. regulus, means king or knight. Several subspecies are recognised across the very large distribution range that includes much of Eurasia and the islands of Macaronesia and Iceland. Birds from the north and east of its breeding range migrate to winter further south.
This kinglet has greenish upper-parts, whitish under-parts, and has two white wingbars. It has a plain face contrasting black irises and a bright head crest, orange and yellow in the male and yellow in the female, which is displayed during breeding. It superficially resembles the common firecrest, which largely shares its European range, but the latter's bronze shoulders and strong face pattern are distinctive. The song is a repetition of high thin notes, slightly higher-pitched than those of its relative. Birds on the Canary Islands are now separated into two subspecies of the goldcrest, but were formerly considered to be a subspecies of the firecrest or a separate species, Regulus teneriffae.
The goldcrest breeds in coniferous woodland and gardens, building its compact, three-layered nest on a tree branch. Ten to twelve eggs are incubated by the female alone, and the chicks are fed by both parents; second broods are common. This kinglet is constantly on the move as it searches for insects to eat, and in winter it is often found with flocks of tits. It may be killed by birds of prey or carry parasites, but its large range and population mean that it is not considered to present any significant conservation concerns.Mistle thrush
The mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) is a bird common to much of Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is a year-round resident in a large part of its range, but northern and eastern populations migrate south for the winter, often in small flocks. It is a large thrush with pale grey-brown upper parts, a greyish-white chin and throat, and black spots on its pale yellow and off-white under parts. The sexes are similar in plumage, and its three subspecies show only minimal differences. The male has a loud, far-carrying song which is delivered even in wet and windy weather, earning the bird the old name of stormcock.
Found in open woods, parks, hedges and cultivated land, the mistle thrush feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates, seeds and berries. Its preferred fruits include those of the mistletoe, holly and yew. Mistletoe is favoured where it is available, and this is reflected in the thrush's English and scientific names; the plant, a parasitic species, benefits from its seeds being excreted by the thrush onto branches where they can germinate. In winter, a mistle thrush will vigorously defend mistletoe clumps or a holly tree as a food reserve for when times are hard.
The open cup nest is built against a trunk or in a forked branch, and is fearlessly defended against potential predators, sometimes including humans or cats. The clutch, typically of three to five eggs, is incubated for 12–15 days, mainly by the female. The chicks fledge about 14–16 days after hatching. There are normally two broods. There was a large range expansion in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and a small decline in recent decades, perhaps due to changes in agricultural practices. Given its high numbers and very large range, this thrush is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being of least concern.Willow tit
The willow tit (Poecile montanus) is a passerine bird in the tit family, Paridae. It is a widespread and common resident breeder throughout temperate and subarctic Europe and northern Asia. It is more of a conifer specialist than the closely related marsh tit, which explains it breeding much further north. It is resident, and most birds do not migrate.
In the east of its range it is much paler than marsh tit, but as one goes west the various races become increasingly similar, so much so that it was not recognised as a breeding bird in Great Britain until the end of the 19th century, despite being widespread. The British population has declined by 94% since 1970 making it the most threatened resident bird in Britain. It now the focus of a Back from the Brink project which aims to reverse this decline.The willow tit is distinguished from the marsh tit by a sooty brown instead of a glossy blue black cap; the general colour is otherwise similar, though the under parts are more buff and the flanks distinctly more rufous; the pale buff edgings to the secondaries form a light patch on the closed wing. The feathers of the crown and the black bib under the bill are longer, but this is not an easily noticed character. However, the more graduated tail (not square) shows distinctly when spread. Length is 11.5 cm, and wings range from 60–70 mm.
The commonest call is a nasal zee, zee, zee, but the notes of the bird evidently vary considerably. Occasionally a double note, ipsee, ipsee, is repeated four or five times.
The willow tit often excavates its own nesting hole, even piercing hard bark; this is usually in a rotten stump or in a tree, more or less decayed. Most nests examined are cups of felted material, such as fur, hair and wood chips, but feathers are sometimes used. The number of eggs varies from six to nine, with reddish spots or blotches..
Birds feed on insects, caterpillars, and seeds, much like other tits. This species is parasitised by the moorhen flea, Dasypsyllus gallinulae.