MSD Manual

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Professional Version

Hippoboscid or Louse Flies of Birds

By

Jan Šlapeta

, MVDr, PhD, GradCertEd (Higher Ed), Sydney School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney

Last full review/revision Aug 2022 | Content last modified Sep 2022

The hippoboscid or louse flies, Pseudolynchia and Lynchia spp, are winged versions of the keds. They infest many songbirds, raptors, and pigeons. The pigeon fly, P canariensis, is an important parasite of domestic pigeons throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It is found throughout the southern US and northward along the Atlantic coast to New England. These dark brown flies have long wings (6.5–7.5 mm) and are able to fly swiftly from the host.

Pathology of Hippoboscid or Louse Flies of Birds

Hippoboscid flies move about quickly on their avian hosts and bite and suck blood from parts that are not well feathered. They may serve as intermediate hosts for many avian blood protozoans of the genus Haemoproteus. Pigeon flies readily attack humans who handle adult birds; the bite is said to be as painful as a bee sting, and its effects may persist for ≥5 days.

Diagnosis of Hippoboscid or Louse Flies of Birds

Close inspection of the ruffled feathers and underlying skin reveals infestation by the unique appearance of these winged, swiftly flying flies.

Treatment and Control of Hippoboscid or Louse Flies of Birds

  • Control of louse flies is with permethrin spray

  • Thorough cleaning of the premises and destruction of the debris are essential for control

Any flies on the birds can be killed by spraying the birds with permethrin. Thorough cleaning of the premises and destruction of the debris are essential for control. Spraying the loft with permethrin, when coupled with cleaning, will alleviate the infestation.

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