Prevalence and risk factors of Trichomonas gallinae and trichomonosis in golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) nestlings in western North America

Journal of Wildlife Diseases
By: , and 

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Abstract

Avian trichomonosis, caused by the protozoan Trichomonas gallinae, affects bird-eating raptors worldwide. Raptors can develop trichomonosis by feeding on infected prey, particularly Rock Pigeons (Columba livia), which are a reservoir for T. gallinae. Raptors may be particularly vulnerable to T. gallinae infection in degraded habitats, where changes in resources may cause raptors to switch from foraging on native prey to synanthropic avian species such as Rock Pigeons. Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) typically forage on mammals; however, habitat across much of their range is experiencing degradation through changes in land use, climate, and human encroachment. In 2015, we examined the prevalence of T. gallinae infection in Golden Eagle nestlings across western North America and conducted an intensive study on factors associated with T. gallinae infection and trichomonosis in southwestern Idaho. We found T. gallinaeinfection in 13% (12/96) of eagle nestlings across 10 western states and in 41% (13/32) of nestlings in southwestern Idaho. At the Idaho site, the probability of T. gallinae infection increased as the proportion of Rock Pigeons in nestling diet increased. Nestlings with diets that consisted of ≥10% Rock Pigeons had a very high probability of T. gallinae infection. We compared historical (1971–81) and recent (2014–15) diet data and incidence of trichomonosis lesions of nestling eagles in Idaho and found that the proportion of Rock Pigeons in eagle diets was higher in recent versus historical periods, as was the proportion of eagle nestlings with trichomonosis lesions. Our results suggested that localized shifts in eagle diet that result from habitat degradation and loss of historical prey resources have the potential to affect Golden Eagle nestling survival and supported the hypothesis that land use change can alter biologic communities in a way that might have consequences for disease infection and host susceptibility.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Prevalence and risk factors of Trichomonas gallinae and trichomonosis in golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) nestlings in western North America
Series title Journal of Wildlife Diseases
DOI 10.7589/2017-11-271
Volume 54
Issue 4
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Wildlife Disease Association
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 755
Last page 764
Country United States