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Revista Brasileira de Parasitologia Veterinária

Print version ISSN 0103-846XOn-line version ISSN 1984-2961

Rev. Bras. Parasitol. Vet. vol.28 no.2 Jaboticabal Apr./June 2019  Epub May 30, 2019 

Short Communication

Pupipara (Diptera, Hippoboscidae) in wild birds attended at a rehabilitation center in southern Brazil

Pupíparas (Diptera, Hippoboscidae) em Aves Silvestres Atendidas em Centro de Reabilitação no Sul do Brasil

Renata Fagundes Moreira1

Laura de Campos Farezin1

Ugo Araújo Souza1

Bruna Zafalon da Silva1

Derek Blaese Amorim2 

Aline Girotto-Soares3

Lívia Eichenberg Surita1

Marcelo Meller Alievi1

Gustavo Graciolli4

João Fabio Soares1  *

1Faculdade de Veterinária, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – UFRGS, Porto Alegre, RS, Brasil

2Centro de Estudos Costeiros, Limnológicos e Marinhos, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – UFRGS, Imbé, RS, Brasil

3Instituto de Pesquisas Veterinárias Desidério Finamor, Eldorado do Sul, RS, Brasil

4Centro de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul – UFMS, Campo Grande, MS, Brasil


The hippoboscids are cosmopolitan permanent obligate hematophagous ectoparasites of birds, domestic and wild mammals and, occasionally, humans. Some species may act as vectors or hosts of etiological pathogenic agents. The aims of this study were to report on the first cases of Hippoboscidae in Crax blumenbachii and Parabuteo unicinctus; to provide new reports from Brazil on Tyto furcata and Asio stygius parasitized by Icosta americana; to report on individuals of Bubo virginianus, Falco sparverius and Accipiter striatus parasitized by genera Ornithoctona; and to provide new reports on parasitism of O. erythrocephala in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The birds of prey and C. blumenbachii were attended at a rehabilitation center in Porto Alegre and at a veterinary hospital in Cruz Alta. These new records demonstrate the huge gap that exists regarding studies on avian ectoparasites and highlight potential vectors of hemoparasites for the bird species studied.

Keywords:  Hematophagous ectoparasites; flies; birds of prey; cracids; hippoboscidae; Southern Brazil


Os hipoboboscídeos são ectoparasitos hematófagos obrigatórios, permanentes e cosmopolitas de aves, mamíferos domésticos e silvestres e, ocasionalmente, humanos. Algumas espécies podem atuar como vetores ou hospedeiros de agentes patogênicos etiológicos. Os objetivos deste estudo foram relatar os primeiros casos de Hippoboscidae em Crax blumenbachii e Parabuteo unicinctus; fornecer novo relato do Brasil sobre Tyto furcata e Asio stygius parasitados por Icosta americana; relatar indivíduos de Bubo virginianus, Falco sparverius e Accipiter striatus parasitados pelo gênero Ornithoctona; e fornecer novos relatos sobre parasitismo de O. erythrocephala no estado do Rio Grande do Sul. As aves de rapina e C. blumenbachii foram atendidas em um centro de reabilitação em Porto Alegre e em um hospital veterinário em Cruz Alta. Esses novos registros demonstram a enorme lacuna que existe em relação aos estudos sobre ectoparasitas aviários e destacam potenciais vetores de hemoparasitos para as espécies de aves estudadas.

Palavras-chave:  Ectoparasitos hematófagos; moscas; aves de rapina; cracídeos; hippoboscidae; Sul do Brasil


Hippoboscid flies are cosmopolitan permanent obligate hematophagous ectoparasites of birds, domestic and wild mammals and, occasionally, humans (RODHAIN, 2015). The females of these flies do not lay eggs, but grow larvae internally; when fully developed, the larvae are released and pupated immediately (HUTSON, 1971). Some species may act as vectors or hosts of etiological agents such as bacteria, helminths and protozoa. Among these, Pseudolynchia canariensis is frequently found in pigeons, causing damage to these birds, and is the only known vector of Haemoproteus columbae (SERRA-FREIRE & MELLO, 2006; RAHOLA et al., 2011; RODHAIN, 2015).

Farajollahi et al. (2005) detected RNA of the West Nile virus in specimens of Icosta americana that were parasitizing birds of prey. The Rickettsia raoultii has been detected molecularly in Melophagus ovinus (LIU et al., 2016), although Rickettsiae do not have any significant impact on birds.

Parabuteo unicinctus, Falco sparverius, Bubo virginianus, Tyto furcata, Asio stygius, Rupornis magnirostris, Caracara plancus and Accipiter striatus are predatory birds with strong presence in Latin America. They balance biodiversity by controlling the populations of rodents, lizards, snakes and bats. Crax blumenbachii is endemic to the Atlantic Forest of southeastern Brazil, but destruction of the biome and hunting have led to significant decline in this species, which is now endangered (STRAHL et al., 1995; BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL, 2016).

The aims of this study were to report on the first cases of Hippoboscidae in C. blumenbachii and P. unicinctus; to provide new reports from Brazil on T. furcata and A. stygius parasitized by I. americana; to report on individuals of B. virginianus, F. sparverius and A. striatus parasitized by genera Ornithoctona; and to provide new reports on the distribution and parasitism of O. erythrocephala in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Material and Methods

The birds evaluated here were received for veterinary medical care at the Conservation and Rehabilitation Center for Wild Animals (PRESERVAS) of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), in Porto Alegre, except for a specimen of T. furcata, which was attended at the Veterinary Hospital of Cruz Alta, between August 2015 and August 2018. Any ectoparasites that were observed on these birds were removed from them, preserved in 70% ethanol and sent for identification. The parasites were identified using the keys published by Hutson (1984) and Graciolli & Carvalho (2003), and species were photographed as exemplified in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Specimens identified of Hippoboscidae. A = Icosta Americana; B = Ornithoctona erythrocephala


In total, 12 species of Hippoboscidae were identified on nine birds. These birds were all free-living, with the exception of one individual of C. blumenbachii, which was kept in captivity. The results, places of origin and living conditions (free-living or in captivity) of these birds are presented in Table 1.

Table 1 Places of origin of the hosts and numbers of flies found. 

Hosts Species (Hippoboscidae) N* Place of origin in RS* Living condition
Parabuteo unicinctus Ornithoctona erythrocephala 1 Imbé Free-living
Falco sparverius Ornithoctona erythrocephala 2 Viamão Free-living
Bubo virginianus Ornithoctona erythrocephala 1 Porto Alegre Free-living
Crax blumenbachii Ornithoctona erythrocephala 1 Gravataí Captivity
Tyto furcata Icosta americana 1 Cruz Alta Free-living
Rupornis magnirostris Ornithoctona erythrocephala 2 Porto Alegre Free-living
Asio stygius Icosta americana 2 Porto Alegre Free-living
Caracara plancus Ornithoctona erythrocephala 1 Estrela Free-living
Accipiter striatus Ornithoctona spp. 1 Igrejinha Free-living

N* = number of specimens of Hippoboscidae;

RS* = state of Rio Grande do Sul.


From a bibliographical survey that we conducted, this is the first report of parasitism by Hippoboscidae in C. blumenbachii and P. unicinctus. These birds were parasitized by O. erythrocephala. In cracids, Vaz & Teixeira (2016) observed O. erythrocephala parasitizing Penelope obscura in the state of Paraná, Brazil. Also in Brazil, the genus Ornithoctona was found in birds of prey in the states of Mato Grosso, São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. Two females of O. erythrocephala were observed parasitizing Milvago chimango in the southern part of Rio Grande do Sul (LAMBRECHT et al., 2015).

Gregor et al. (1973) found that F. sparverius was parasitized by O. erythrocephala in Cuba and cited a report by Maa (1969), who had found that it was parasitized by Ornithoctona sp., Ornithoica sp., Ornithophila metallica, Ornithophila gestroi, Ornithomya sp. and Phthona modesta. However, the present study is the first report from Brazil.

Vaz & Teixeira (2016) observed O. erythrocephala parasitizing newly captured free-living individuals of the species R. magnirostris and C. plancus in Paraná. However, the present study provides a new record of this parasitism in Rio Grande do Sul. Mueller et al. (1969) reported O. erythrocephala in B. virginianus and A. striatus in Wisconsin, USA. The genus Ornithoctona in B. virginianus and A. striatus was observed in the present study for the first time in Brazil.

Icosta is the largest genus of the family Hipposcidae, with about 65 species (KEIRANS, 1975). It has already been discovered in Paraná and Santa Catarina. I. americana and I. rufiventris have been reported from the owls Megascops atricapilla, M. sanctaecatarinae, M. choliba, Athene cunicularia, Ciccaba virgata, Otus choliba and Strix hylophila in Brazil (GRACIOLLI & CARVALHO, 2003; GRACIOLLI & BISPO, 2005). The I. rufiventris and Ornithoica vicina complete their life cycle in owls (MAA, 1969). The present study provides the first records of Icosta americana in T. furcata and A. stygius in Brazil.

Thus, this is the first report of parasitism by Hippoboscidae in C. blumenbachii and P. unicinctus. This report also describes new occurrences of the genera Ornithoctona and Icosta parasitizing birds of prey in Rio Grande do Sul and some other parts of Brazil.

Knowledge of the ectoparasite fauna in wild birds is of paramount importance, especially among birds threatened with extinction, because these pupipara have vector potential. In these birds, hemoparasites may be harmful to the population balance and may be especially pathogenic towards birds that are under stress through captivity.


This work was supported by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, CNPq) and by the Coordination Office for Improvement of Higher-Education Personnel (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, CAPES).


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Received: October 03, 2018; Accepted: January 18, 2019

*Corresponding author: João Fabio Soares. Departamento de Patologia Veterinária, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – UFRGS, Av. Bento Gonçalves, 9090, CP 15094, CEP 91540-000, Porto Alegre, RS, Brasil. e-mail:

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