Five methods for estimating the abundance of chewing lice (Insecta: Phthiraptera) were tested. To evaluate the methods, feral pigeons (Columba livia) and 2 species of ischnoceran lice were used. The fraction of lice removed by each method was compared, and least squares linear regression was used to determine how well each method predicted total abundance. Total abundance was assessed in most cases using KOH dissolution. The 2 methods involving dead birds (body washing and post-mortem-ruffling) provided better results than 3 methods involving live birds (dust-ruffling, fumigation chambers, and visual examination). Body washing removed the largest fraction of lice (>82%) and was an extremely accurate predictor of total abundance (r2 = 0.99). Post-mortem-ruffling was also an accurate predictor of total abundance (r2 ≥ 0.88), even though it removed a smaller proportion of lice (<70%) than body washing. Dust-ruffling and fumigation chambers removed even fewer lice, but were still reasonably accurate predictors of total abundance, except in the case of data sets restricted to birds with relatively few lice. Visual examination, the only method not requiring that lice be removed from the host, was an accurate predictor of louse abundance, except in the case of wing lice on lightly parasitized birds.
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