Avian Haemosporidian blood parasite infections at a migration hotspot in Eilat, Israel

Open access


Haemosporidian blood parasites are frequent amongst passerines. Though they often do not cause detectable consequences to host health, however, their presence or absence and also their prevalence across host populations may potentially carry meaningful information about the health, stress, body condition and viability of bird individuals or populations. The study of migratory birds captured in Eilat, Israel, allowed us to evaluate the prevalence of blood parasite infections in a wide range of both migrant and resident species in spring (N = 1,950) and autumn (N = 538) of 2004 and 2005. According to blood film microscopy, Haemoproteus spp. and Leucocytozoon spp. were more prevalent in the spring than in the autumn (0.289, 0.082 vs. 0.132, 0.033, respectively), whilst Plasmodium spp. exhibited a slight opposite trend (0.034, 0.056). All other parasites (such as trypanosomes, microfilaria and haemococcidians) were rare. During the spring seasons, prevalences were significantly higher in migrant than in resident species, whilst this difference was only marginally significant in the autumn. Given that Eilat is a migration hotspot for several Palearctic passerine species, the present descriptive study may hopefully serve to set the baseline values for future long-term epidemiological monitoring.

Alerstam, T. (1994) Bird migration. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Bennett, G.F. & Campbell A.G. (1972) Avian haemoproteidae. I. Description of Haemoproteus fallisi n. sp. and a review of the haemoproteids of the family Turdidae. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 50, 1269-1275.

Berthold, P. (2001) Bird migration – a general survey. Oxford Ornithology series, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Clarabuch, O. & Gonzalez-Solis, J. (1998) Parasitism as a migration cost. Biologia e Conservazione Della Fauna, 102, 113-117.

Felsenstein, J. (1985) Phylogenies and the comparative method. American Naturalist, 125, 1-15.

Frumkin, R., Pinshow, B. & Kleinhaus, S. (1995) A review of bird migration over Israel. Journal für Ornithologie, 136, 127-147.

Greiner, E.C., Bennett, G.F., White, E.M. & Coombs, R.F. (1975) Distribution of avian hematozoa of North America. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 53, 1762-1787.

Hawking, F. (1975) Circadian and other rhythms of parasites. Advances in Parasitology, 13, 123-182.

Lutz, H.L., Hochachka, W.M., Engel, J.I., Bell, J.A., Tkach, V.V., Bates J.M., et al. (2015) Parasite prevalence corresponds to host life history in a diverse assemblage of Afrotropical birds and Haemosporidian parasites. PloS one, 10(4), e0121254.

Mata, V.A., da Silva, L.P., Lopes, R.J. & Drovetski S.V. (2015) The Strait of Gibraltar poses an effective barrier to host-specialised but not to host-generalised lineages of avian Haemosporidia. International Journal for Parasitology, 45, 711-719.

Merino, S., Moreno, J., Sanz, J.J. & Arriero, E. (2000) Are avian blood parasites pathogenic in the wild? A medication experiment in blue tits (Parus caeruleus). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 267, 2507-2510.

Møller A.P. & Erritzøe, J. (1998) Host immune defence and migration in birds. Evolutionary Ecology, 12,945-953.

Norris, K. & Evans, M.R. (2000) Ecological immunology: life history trade-offs and immune defence in birds. Behavioral Ecology, 11, 19-26.

Paperna, I. & Yosef, R. (2010) Description of a new species of Haemoproteus (Haemosporidia: Apicomplexa) from an Orange-tufted Sunbird Nectarinia osea. Acta Parasitologica, 55, 103-107.

Paperna, I., Yosef, R. & Landau, I. (2007) Plasmodium spp. in raptors on the Eurasian-African migration route. Parasite, 14, 313-322.

Paperna I., Yosef, R., Chavatte, J.M., Gill, H. & Landau, I. (2008) Species of Plasmodium of passerine birds with four nuclei, with description of new species. Acta Protozoologica, 58, 227-236.

Råberg, L., Grahn, M., Hasselquist, D. & Svensson, E. (1998) On the adaptive significance of stress-induced immunosuppression. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 265, 1637-1641.

Reiczigel, J. (2003) Confidence intervals for the binomial parameter: some new considerations. Statistics in Medicine, 22, 611-621.

Shirihai, H. (1996) The birds of Israel. London: Academic Press.

Valkiūnas, G. (1993a) Pathogenic influence of haemosporidians and trypanosomes on wild birds in the field conditions: facts and hypotheses. Ekologija (Vilnius), 1, 47-60.

Valkiūnas, G. (1993b) The role of seasonal migrations in the distribution of Haemosporidia of birds in north Palaearctic. Ekologija (Vilnius), 2, 57-67.

Valkiūnas, G. (2005) Avian malaria parasites and other haemosporidia. CRC, Boca Raton, USA.

Valkiūnas, G., Anwar, A.M., Atkinson, C.T., Greiner E.C., Paperna, I., & Peirce, M.A. (2005b) What distinguishes malaria parasites from other pigmented haemosporidians? Trends in Parasitology, 21, 357-358.

Waldenstöm, J., Bensch, S., Kiboi, S., Hasselquist, D. & Ottosson, U. (2002) Cross-species infection of blood parasites between resident and migratory songbirds in Africa. Molecular Ecology, 11, 1545-1554.

VassarStats (2016) Website for Statistical Computation. http://vassarstats.net, accessed 25. 05. 2016.

Yosef, R. & Chernetsov, N. (2004) Stopover ecology of migratory Sedge Warblers (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) at Eilat, Israel. Ostrich, 75, 52-56.

Yosef, R. & Chernetsov N. (2005) Longer is fatter: body mass changes of migrant Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) staging at Eilat, Israel. Ostrich, 76,142-147.

Journal Information

CiteScore 2018: 0.84

Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.365


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 254 148 9
PDF Downloads 112 83 8