Slender Pigeon Louse Columbicola columbae

Physical characteristics: The slender pigeon louse is a long, slender louse with two bladelike hairs near the front of its head. The threadlike antennae are five-segmented. They measure 0.078 to 0.12 inches (2 to 3 millimeters) in length.

Geographic range: This louse is only found on four species of pigeons, including the widely distributed rock dove or city pigeon. Rock doves (and their ectoparasites) live with humans and have been introduced throughout the world. The distribution of the slender pigeon louse is thought to match that of the rock dove.

Habitat: They are found only among the feathers on the upper and lower sides of the wings of pigeons.

Diet: Slender pigeon lice eat the fluffy parts of the feathers.

Behavior and reproduction: The slender body of this louse allows it to move in between the feather barbs. They grab the edges of feather barbs with their jaws to avoid the preening activities of the host.

Females attach their eggs on the underside of the wing feathers near the pigeon's body. They hatch in three to five days at 98.6°F (37°C).

Slender pigeon lice and people: They are used as research animals by scientists studying how animals change over time and how they interact with parasites.

The slender pigeon louse is only found on four species of pigeons, including the widely distributed rock dove or city pigeon. (Kim Taylor/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Conservation status: This species is not endangered or threatened. However, populations present on the Pale-backed Pigeon from Central Asia and the Middle East should be considered vulnerable, or at high risk of extinction in the wild. ■

FOR MORE INFORMATION

The slender pigeon louse is only found on four species of pigeons, including the widely distributed rock dove or city pigeon. (Kim Taylor/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Books:

Kim, K. C., H. D. Pratt, and C. J. Stojanovich. The Sucking Lice of North America. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1986.

Periodicals:

Conniff, R. "Body Beasts." National Geographic 194, no. 6 (December 1998): 102-115.

Price, M. A., and O. H. Graham. "Chewing and Sucking Lice as Parasites of Mammals and Birds." USDA Agricultural Research Service Technical Bulletin 1849 (1997): 1-309.

Web sites:

National Pediculosis Association. http://www.headlice.org (accessed on October 6, 2004).

Phthiraptera Central. http://www.phthiraptera.org (accessed on October 6, 2004).

Phthiraptera. Lice. http://www.ento.csiro.au/Ecowatch/Insects_ Invertebrates/phthiraptera.htm (accessed on October 6, 2004).

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