tick infested puffin
I received the following mail from David Playle, a visitor to Mullin May 2006. I thought it would be of interest and with Davids kind permission publish it here.
"Alan,
Last May we had a very successful holiday on the Isle of Mull, renting a cottage on the coast near Bunessan on the South West of the Island. During breakfast my youngest daughter spotted a puffin floundering ashore through the surf. Watching it, it soon became apparent that it was “unwell” and behaving abnormally. We went to investigate and discovered that the birds head was a mass of ticks. I had never seen anything like this before, and was totally unaware that birds, especially sea birds, could become hosts to ticks. I would have thought that repeated submersion in salt water would have kept them at bay. Presumably they became attached whilst the bird was “dry” ashore nesting/incubating. 

The attached photos of the afflicted puffin may be of interest to you and your readers of MullBirds? Please use them, or not, as you wish. I would be interested to know myself if this parasitism is common in seabirds or whether this was very much an exceptional case."

Puffin covered in ticks May 2006


John Bowler RSPB. from Tiree writes:
 "Seabirds are rather susceptible to ticks - particularly burrow-nesters as the ticks can lie in wait for their host to return in the warm, humid conditions of the burrow. I did some research on ticks and seabirds back in the 90s and the life histories of several tick species are tightly woven around the breeding cycles of their seabird hosts - to the extent that some birds (e.g. Sooty Terns) will rotate the use of colony sites so that tick infestations can never build up to plague proportions at any one site. Having said that, I have only rarely seen such a heavy tick-burden on an individual and this is certainly enough to make the bird very weak and ultimately kill it. In the tropics at least, avian ticks can carry a nasty range of bird viruses, which can also sicken/kill birds. Looks to me that this bird was very unlucky and stuck its head into a burrow in which one or two female tick had successfully hatched out a brood of larval/nymph stage ticks (depending on the species) - which were ready and waiting.... They usually attach to areas of bare skin on birds - often on the legs but also around the bill-base and around the eye. It's always a distressing sight but I suppose the ticks are also an integral part of the biodiversity of seabird colonies...."


This is the web site of Alan Spellman Maridon Lochdon Isle of Mull PA64  6AP