Blood protozoa of free-living birds

DLC OCLC 54304 ; NLM OCLC 38231442
Edited by:
Archibald McDiarmid


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Blood protozoa were first reported from wild birds in 1884. Since then numerous surveys throughout the world have demonstrated their presence in a wide variety of hosts and localities with continuing designations of new species. Taxonomic determinations include parasites in the genera Plasmodium, Haemoproteus, Leucocytozoon, Babesia, Lankesterella and Trypanosoma. Transmission of Plasmodium by mosquitoes was demonstrated with a bird parasite before these insects were proven as vectors of human malaria. All the genera under consideration require an insect vector to complete their life-cycles and susceptible vectors have been demonstrated. Most experimental work on the blood protozoa of birds has been carried on with captive birds. An extensive volume of research has been conducted on Plasmodium because of its close similarity to malaria in man. Field studies that would provide information on the epizootiology of occurrence of these parasites in wild populations have been very limited, mainly confined to single blood film surveys. Such data are inadequate to provide an understanding of true prevalence or incidence or of factual knowledge of their impact on the wild population. Mechanisms for procuring such information are available in some cases and can be developed to fit other situations. Isodiagnosis, inoculation of blood from wild birds into susceptible captive hosts, has revealed a prevalence of over 60 % for Plasmodium in situations where microscope examination of single peripheral blood preparations yielded less than 1 %. Culture of bone marrow collected by biopsy demonstrates high prevalence of trypanosomes even when none are evident from microscopic examination of blood. Often preparations of tissues collected at necropsy reveal Leucocytozoon and Lankesterella when examination of peripheral blood gave no indication of infection. Methods developed by bird ringers provide techniques for obtaining repeat examinations of free-living birds that can yield further pertinent data. The use that has been made of these techniques, beyond the mere procurement of a single blood film, is reviewed from the standpoint of providing knowledge of the epizootiology of the blood protozoa of birds and their further potential is projected.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Book chapter
Publication Subtype:
Book Chapter
Blood protozoa of free-living birds
Year Published:
Academic Press
Publisher location:
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
xxiv, 332
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Other Government Series
Larger Work Title:
Diseases in free-living wild animals: the proceedings of a symposium held at the Zoological Society of London on 9 and 10 May 1968
First page:
Last page: