Bird wa(tch/sh)ing

Many Canadians go to Mexico to watch birds.  In the vicinity of the UNAM field station at Chamela there is a huge diversity of forest-dwelling, estuarine and marine species. I won’t bore you with my list of twitched birds, but my trip here has allowed me to observe members of several families I’d never previously seen outside of a zoo or a museum (e.g., Cracidae, Fregatidae, Sulidae).

west Mexican chachalacas and magnificent frigatebird compilation

West Mexican Chachalacas (Cracidae) and Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregatidae)

But unlike most avian enthusiasts, as well as watching birds, I also wash them.  Washing the body of a recently deceased host is one of the best ways to get feather mites (Acari: Astigmata: Pterolichoidea and Analgoidea).  While at the station I have ruffled through the feathers of stuffed specimens from their ornithological collection, and was also lucky enough to get to wash a freshly road-killed Buteo magnirostris (Roadside Hawk). The washing yielded feather mites, feather lice, and one hippoboscid fly.  The last has been added to the UNAM Chamela entomological collection, and the others get to come back to Edmonton with me.

washing a Buteo magnirostris roadkilled near UNAM Chamela Feb 2014 sml

The hawk about to be washed.

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