Behavior of the Avian Parasite Philornis downsi (Diptera: Muscidae) in and Near Host Nests in the Galapagos Islands

Courtney L. Pike, Ismael E. Ramirez, David J. Anchundia, Birgit Fessl, George E. Heimpel, Charlotte E. Causton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The Avian Vampire Fly, Philornis downsi, has invaded the Galapagos Islands, where it causes high mortality of endemic and native landbird species, including most species of Darwin’s finches. Control methods are under development, but key information is missing about the reproductive biology of P. downsi and the behavior of flies in and near nests of their hosts. We used external and internal nest cameras to record the behavior of P. downsi adults within and outside nests of the Galapagos Flycatcher, Myiarchus magnirostris, throughout all stages of the nesting cycle. These recordings showed that P. downsi visited flycatcher nests throughout the day with higher fly activity during the nestling phase during vespertine hours. The observations also revealed that multiple P. downsi individuals can visit nests concurrently, and that there are some interactions among these flies within the nest. Fly visitation to nests occurred significantly more often while parent birds were away from the nest than in the nest, and this timing appears to be a strategy to avoid predation by parent birds. We report fly mating behavior outside the nest but not in the nest cavity. We discuss the relevance of these findings for the adaptive forces shaping P. downsi life history strategies as well as rearing and control measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-311
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Ectoparasite
  • Host-parasite interactions
  • Insect behavior
  • Invasive species
  • Life history
  • Nest visitation


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