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Saturday 1st November, 2014

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Wulf’s Blog

Wulf

Tuesday August 7th 2012

It’s been an uneventful week, which I suppose is no bad thing from the collection’s perspective. It is however the ‘flatly’ season. I have mentioned these rather unpleasant pests before. We had to catch one of our birds up this morning for a routine check, and in the process Vicky managed to get covered in flat flies! The latin name for them is ‘Hippoboscid’, and they are a specialist parasite on birds. They are ‘designed’ for scuttling through feathers, and sucking their host’s blood. What’s more, they are very hard to kill. When they land on an unfortunate keeper, by nature, they will creep into any ‘crevice’ they can find. a favourite being; up the back of the neck, and into the hair line. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what that feels like!

There’s another problem with these little ‘beauties’, as they are the vector for a malaria type protozoa called ‘Haemoproteus’. Haemoproteus is harmless to most birds, but can cause anaemia in the young of certain species of owl; the Snowy Owl being an obvious one. The anaemia causes the bird’s immune system to be compromised, allowing the bird to pick up other infections. Which in the unfortunate Snowy Owl’s case, normally prove fatal! We’ve had the odd problem with Haemoproteus over the years! It’s one of the reasons why we no longer breed Snowy Owls. I have written an article on this problem a few years ago, called ‘Fighting Flies’ for anybody interested.

See you next week

Wulf
Head Keeper

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