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Ectoparasites Of Wild Rock Pigeon (Columba Livia Livia) In The Algiers Sahel, Algeria.


Parasite ecology is today a discipline in full development, in particular due to the consideration by ecologists of the potential role of parasites in the processes of regulation of host populations and their impact on equilibrium And the functioning of ecosystems. Since each organism is confronted with parasitism, either as a host or as a parasite [5], parasitism must be taken into consideration in evolutionary ecology and population biology in the same way as competition And predation as a major force in the structuring of communities [22,38,32], population dynamics [2,3] Traits of individuals' life histories.

Since the existence of life on earth, living beings have been able to develop within another newly created environment: living beings themselves [17]. The parasitic mode of life had thus appeared. Knowing that parasites can reduce the survival of their hosts by decreasing their fertility and affecting the size and cycle of their population [2], the urban pigeon managed to colonize Algeria. A large number of ectoparasites are easy to see and often observed when handling a host. They feed and live permanently outside the bird such as feather lice [9]. However, the identification of parasitic processions specific to the different species of birds remains an unavoidable step to be able to address these problems. Such monitoring also helps to improve our understanding of the dynamics of pathogen communities associated with public and / or veterinary health problems. In this work, we were interested in conducting a study on the ectoparasites of the urban pigeon in the Algerian Sahel by setting the following objectives:

* Identification of ectoparasites.

* Their Quantification and temporal dynamics.

* Typologie parasitaire.


This study was led in the area of Algiers Sahel. It includes all the small reliefs which extend between Bouzareah in the north, the leftbanks of El-Harrach river at the south-east and the right bank of the Mazafran river in south-west. The zones particularly frequented by the birds object of this study, are represented by suburban environments as well as natural environments.The bioclimatic stage of this area is semi-arid characterized by a warm winter.

A total of 50 adults pigeons, same-aged pigeons were captured from different locations from January, 2015 to December, 2015 were examined for ectoparasites. The host was collected on monthly basis at regular intervals and the number of birds examined each month varied between 15 and 20 based on availability.

The plumage of each bird was thoroughly brushed onto a white tray for the collection of ectoparasites. Attached ectoparasites such as mites and ticks, which could not be removed by brushing, were gently dislodged with a pair of thumb forceps and their sites noted [1].

The ectoparasites were prepared for identification by relaxing and dehydrating them in 70% alcohol and they were counted and preserved in labeled vials containing 70% alcohol (methanol) and a drop of glycerine [42] After that, ectoparasites were identified using a microscope (Olympus) equipped with a camera and taxonomic keys following Soulsby [42].Confirmatory identification of the ectoparasites was at the Entomology Laboratory of the Department of Zoology Agricultural and Forestry, National Agronomic High School, Algiers, ALGERIA and at the department of Parasitology, National veterinary high school, Algiers, ALGERIA

The terms prevalence, intensity and mean intensity were applied as defined by Margolis et al.[30].

The collected data were entered in a traditional data base -processing Excel 2007. Chi-square test was employed to determine association between prevalence, sex, and season. The checking and the statistical processing were conducted on Excel, Minitab[R] Release 14.1 (statistical software@ 1972-2003 Minitab Inc. All rights reserved Win 1410 ea. 30). Eventual differences were regarded as significant within an error risk of 5%.


After deworming of the adult pigeons (n = 50), the ectoparasites were harvested and the identification was carried out under a MOTIC microscope at the medical entomology center of the Pasteur Institute in Algiers. It revealed:

- The first group is represented by the family of lice mallophages (lice of the birds). The phthiraptera (Phthiraptera) now group together in a single order all the insects classically referred to as lice. The ancient classification distinguished as two distinct orders the lice of mammals, suckers of blood (anoplura), "lice of birds" (or mallophages), to the more varied food. In all cases, they are ectoparasites devoid of wings. Four species were found and identified in our host model: Columbicola columbae, Physconelloldes eurysema; Campanulotes bidentatus; Floborstialla lata.

-The second group is represented by mites. They are small individuals, their abdomen is not segmented and has four pairs of short legs of six articles inserted near each other on the anterior half of the body. They are provided with chelicers in suction-adapted forms and their stigmas are placed between the legs III and IV. Their bodies are pyriform, widened behind and covered with short and loose bristles. The haematophagous mites are white on an empty stomach and red after meals. The species harvested are: Ornithyssus bursa, Cnemidocoptes laevis colombae are haematophagous mites; and Falculifer sp which are mites specific to feathers.

3.1. Ectoparasitic typology:

Fifty adult individuals were dewormed. Harvested parasites were classified by attachment site on individuals (wing, nape, back, tail and leg).

- Columbicola columbae were found exclusively in the wings (Fig. 3).

- Physconelloides eurysema, were found on the chest at 46%, 32% on the back, and 25% on the tail (Fig.3)

- Campanulotes bidentatus were found in all parts of the body according to the following percentage: 19.25% wing, 34.75% breast, 11.24% back, 19.42% tail, 16.25%.

- Hohorstiella lata also they are generalist ie in all parts of the body according to the following percentage: 12.75% wing, 42% chest, 22.20% back, 17.49% tail, 8.75% (Fig.3).

- Cnemidocoptes sp were found on the breast at 58.50% and 52.25% on the back (Fig.3).

- Ornithonyssus bursa, was found on the wings at 61.33%, on the back 15.66% and on the tail 27.90% and the legs 6.70% (Fig. 3).

- Falculifer sp, were found to be 49.33% on the wings and 15.25% on the back, and on the tail 38.75% (Fig. 3).

Figure 3 shows that the parasite load varies on the host itself. An unequal distribution of the ectopatasite groups on the body of host individuals can also be observed, mites and lice colonize all parts of the body but at different percentages.

Lice are mostly winged (32%), chest shelters (28%), back (18%), tail (15%) and legs only (7%).

The mites also show a high percentage of wings (39.26%) followed by the back (25.30%), the tail (21.21%), the breast (16.85%) and finally the legs 1.93%).

3.2. Parasitic Indices:

According to the table, we note that Columbicola columbae has the highest prevalence, intensity and abundance. In contrast to Falculifer sp least abundant (Table).

3.3. Dynamique des peuplements parasitaires en fonction des saisons :

According to figure (4), we observe different rhythms of activity according to the groups of ectoparasites.Lice infestation increases over time to peak in the summer season, from which we have seen a decrease in the rate, which is almost nil in the fall and winter.

Infestation by mites is fluctuating but the maximum is observed in spring. In autumn and winter the rate of mites is more or less low.

3.4. Correlation tests:

To investigate the effect of parasites on the weight of adult pigeons, tests and correlation were carried out, the significant results are reported below. Indeed, only two significant correlations were recorded, but all were positive.

3.4.1 Weight of adult pigeons Vs Columbicola columbae:

The relationship between the weight of the pigeons and Columbicola columbae is a positive and very highly significant relationship (r = 0.3036 and P = 0.025) (Fig. 5).

3.4.2. Weight of adult pigeons Vs Hohorstiella lata:

The relationship between the weight of pigeons and Hohorstiellalata is a positive and highly significant relationship (r = 0.4033 and P = 0.002), and we find that the larger the pigeons, the greater the load (Fig. 6).

All these Correlation tests would lead us to say that the bigger the pigeons the bigger the parasitic load.


In recent years, research on host-parasite interaction in birds has developed considerably [34,29,25,14]. These studies have focused on nest ectoparasites such as mites, bedbugs, Diptera, fleas, and ticks to understand host-parasite interactions and factors that govern the life history of host populations [10,35,36]. Among the most frequently infected host species, the bird model provides an excellent basis for the identification and quantification of parasites in general and ectoparasites in particular [41].

The results of this study show that pigeon adults in Algeria are infested with a multitude of parasites, as is the case for most Columbidae in Europe [18,37], although the results show a high prevalence of lice and Low presence of other ectoparasites. Indeed, we have identified seven species of ectoparasites: the mites which are: Ornithonyssus bursa (haematophagous mites), Falculifer sp (feather mites) and Cnemidocoptes laevis colombae (Gale plucking) with four species of lice; Columbicola columbae; Campanulotes bidentatus, Hohorstiella lata (pigeon lice) and Physconelloides eurysema (chicken lice and some columbidae).

The total parasitic typology in adults shows the presence of parasites on the wings, chest, back, tail and legs. In terms of abundance, lice are clearly the most abundant (61.2%), the mites are represented by (38.8%) of the individuals; (15.2%), Campanulotes bidentatus (15.1%), Hohorstiella lata (15.1%), Cnemidocoptes sp (12.2%),, 1%), Ornithonyssus bursa (12.2%), Falculifer sp (11.7%).

The parasite indices in pigeons show a prevalence ranging from (12-100%), abundance varies from an interval of variability (4.2-11.1) and for intensity (7.7-13, 5).

The results of the distribution of the parasite indices of the species studied by the nature of the host show an inequality in the face of parasitism. The causes of these variations are numerous and may be related to genetics, age of host, living environment, energy expenditure, proximity of potential host, presence of other parasites [17].

Feather mites are numerically the most abundant group of ectoparasites living on birds [23] They are located mainly on large feathers (pennes). The results on the attachment sites of the different ectoparasitic groups of the pigeon biset revealed that the largest number of mites and lice is mainly located at the wings. This mode of distribution of parasites on the host is explained by a preference for certain micro-habitats. This distribution is influenced by the mode of nutrition of the parasites and by their development cycle, the mode of nutrition itself depends on the nature of the buccal parts of the parasites [29,33]. Indeed, the feathers of birds are the living environment that represents both the food and the biotope of the parasite. The host itself represents a mosaic of stable micro-habitats of moisture and temperature that allows the parasite to live and reproduce. Moreover, the parasite that can not live without a host is by definition one of the selective factors of the host individual, since it develops at its expense [40].

The pigeon has a seasonal fluctuating parasite load, where we noted a seasonal effect on lice and mites. The high rate of infestation of ectoparasites is recorded in the spring and summer. This increase in parasitic load could also be explained by changes in the diet of birds during a season. This can increase the recruitment of certain parasites and limit or prevent that of other parasites.

The high rate of lice and mites in the spring period can also be explained by the fact that during this period migratory and sedentary birds gather together. As a result, closeness between individuals leads to an increase in the frequency of close contact [33] and consequently an increase in parasites.

In the study area, pigeon biset appears to be heavily infested with lice and mites. These ectoparasites do not have a real impact on the body conditions of the pigeon, moreover the ectoparasites encountered are comparable to those of other Columbidae [24]. So it continues to multiply in an increased and exponential way. It is assumed that the pigeon has adapted very quickly to the environment in which it is found, or that it has a resistance which allows it to cope with the pressures exerted by external agents such as parasites.


This study provided an update on the knowledge base concerning the ectoparasitic ecology of pigeon biset. Indeed, this birds constitute a possible reservoir of pathogens and can provoke real constraints of public and veterinary health. Moreover, the pigeon biset would seem to have adapted well to the conditions of the study area, given its reproductive activity proved by the increased increase of these numbers.

It is likely that other factors may play a role in the expansion of the pigeon, such as: climate change, agricultural practices. These are causing the emergence of new food sources in areas likely to be colonized.

The results obtained showed that the ectoparasites of Sahelian Pigeon Algerois are represented by two groups of ectoparasites, lice and mites: the first group is represented by the family of lice mallophages (lice of the birds) with four species identified In the host model: Columbicola columbae; Physconelloideseurysema; Campanulotesbidentatus; Hohorstiellalata.and the second group is represented by the mites: Ornithyssusbursa, Cnemidocopteslaeviscolomba are haematophagous mites; And Falculifer sp which are mites specific to feathers. The intensity of lice infestation is greatest, followed by that of mites.

These results have only anecdotal interest for the time being, and we do not have any comparative data to evaluate the intensity of the infestation of the species by ectoparasites. Therefore, it will be all the more interesting to follow the long-term evolution of ectoparasitism in the years to come in order to characterize the ectoparasite stand of the pigeon biset in the Algerian Sahel.


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(1) Zoology agricultural and forest department, High School of Agronomy, Hassan Badi, El Harrach, Algiers, Algeria.

(2) Zoology department, High School of veterinary, Hassan Badi, El Harrach, Algiers, Algeria.

Address For Correspondence:

Younes Djelmoudi, Laboratory of Entomology, Zoology agricultural and forest department, High School of Agronomy, Hassan Badi, El Harrach, Algiers, Algeria.


Received 20 May 2017; Accepted 20July 2017; Available online 26 September 2017
Table : Adult parasitic index (n = 50)

Ectoparasite species     Infested  Prevalence (%)  Abundance  intensity

Columbicola columbae     50        100             11,1        9,1
Physconegoides euzysema  08         16              6,66      11,5
Campanuktes bidentatus   09         18              7,32      13,45
Hohorstiella lata        07         14              9,25      11,2
Ornithonyssus bursa      10         20              8,33      10,5
Falculifer sp            06         12              5,5       10,7
Cnemidocoptes sp         08         16              4,2        7,71
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Author:Djelmoudi, Y.; Milla, A.; Daoudi-Hacini, S.; Doumandji, S.
Publication:Advances in Environmental Biology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6ALGE
Date:Aug 1, 2017
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