Behaviour 2019
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Is allopreening a stimulus-driven defense against ectoparasites?
Graham B Goodman, Sarah A. Conner, Sarah E. Bush, Dale H. Clayton. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, United States

Allopreening occurs when one bird preens another bird. The behavior is normally directed at the head and neck of the recipient, i.e. regions that the bird cannot self-preen. Studies of penguins, pigeons, and other groups suggest that allopreening plays a role in the control of ectoparasites, such as ticks and feather lice. However, it is not known whether allopreening increases in response to increases in parasite load, or whether it is a programmed response that occurs at a regular interval independent of parasite load. We conducted a simple experiment using wild-caught Feral pigeons (Columba livia) to test the relationship between ectoparasite load and allopreening rate. We added feather lice (Columbicola columbae) to captive pigeons and tested for changes in their allopreening rates, compared to control birds with no lice added. Allopreening rates were negatively correlated with self-preening rates, but were not affected by the addition of lice.