Culex pipiens serves as the endemic vector of West Nile virus (WNV) in eastern North America, where house sparrows (HOSP, Passer domesticus) serve as a reservoir host. We tested the hypotheses that: (1) Attraction of Cx. pipiens to HOSP is influenced by bird age and (2) that age-specific variation in chemical profiles of bird uropygial gland secretions informs this choice. We conducted mosquito choice trials in an olfactometer and found that Cx. pipiens were more often attracted to adult sparrows over nestlings, however, they demonstrated no preference for adults over fledglings. Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry we observed age-specific differences in the semi-volatile chemical profiles of house sparrow uropygial gland secretions. Contrary to our hypothesis, we found no significant difference in mosquito feeding preference between the secretions of adults and those of either nestlings or fledglings. We suggest that other chemical cues influence the feeding preference of Cx. pipiens, either independently of uropygial gland secretions, or synergistically with them.
Keywords: behavior; chemical biology; ecology; mosquitoes.