House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) nestlings were screened for ectoparasites; the most common ectoparasite was Pellonyssus reedi, a haematophagous mite. Parasite load was used to determine whether: ectoparasites have an effect on chick body mass prior to fledging, relative chick body mass is a within-brood predictor of relative parasite load, and parasite load per brood correlates with brood size. There was a negative correlation between parasite load and chick body mass, indicating that ectoparasites can reduce the quality of host offspring. Within broods, a chick's body mass was not related to its parasite load relative to its siblings' loads, suggesting that these ectoparasites do not preferentially target particular nestlings based on size. No relationship was found between brood size and total parasite load; thus, there was no evidence that within-nests, mite population size is limited by brood size.
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Vol. 102 • No. 3