Offspring fitness depends on interactions between parental care and environmental constraints. It has been suggested that in altricial birds parents are able to compensate for the detrimental effects of ectoparasites by improving food provisioning. We tested this prediction in a population of blue tits highly parasitized by blowfly larvae. The frequency of parental feeding visits was significantly higher in parasitized broods than in broods experimentally deparasitized. Despite a strong increase in parental care, chicks of parasitized broods were lighter, smaller, and more anaemic than chicks in deparasitized broods. Parents invest more in feeding parasitized young but cannot fully compensate for the negative effects of parasites, hence young are in poor condition at fledging.
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