Dust-ruffling: A simple method for quantifying ectoparasite loads of live birds

B. A. Walther, D. H. Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


We present a simple, accurate method for quantifying the ectoparasite loads of live birds in the field. Birds were dusted with pyrethrin to irritate their ectoparasites, which were then dislodged from the plumage by ruffling the feathers over a collecting surface for repeated timed bouts until the point of diminishing returns was reached. This method required less equipment and was more accurate and efficient than previously described methods, as we show by comparing our method to other popular approaches. Dust-ruffling is best suited for sampling "permanent" ectoparasites, such as chewing lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera), which pass their entire life cycle on the body of the host.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-518
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Field Ornithology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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