Blood parasites of Nearctic-Neotropical migrant passerine birds during spring trans-gulf migration: Impact on host body condition
To test the hypothesis that migrants infected with blood parasites arrive on the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico in poorer condition than uninfected birds, we examined 1,705 migrant passerine birds representing 54 species of 11 families from 2 Gulf Coast sites for blood parasites. Three hundred and sixty (21.1 %) were infected with 1 or more species of 4 genera of blood parasites. The prevalence of parasites was as follows: Haemoproteus spp. (11.7%), Plasmodium spp. (6.7%), LeucocytoZoon spp. (1.3%), and Trypanosoma spp. (1.2%). Both prevalence and density of Haemoproteus spp. infection varied among species. We found no relationship of gender or age with the prevalence of Haemoproteus spp. infection or Plasmodium spp. infection, with the exception of the orchard oriole (Icterus spurius) for which older birds were more likely to be infected with Haemoproteus spp. than younger birds. We also found that scarlet tanagers and summer tanagers infected with species of Haemoproteus have lower fat scores than uninfected individuals and that rose-breasted grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles infected with Haemoproteus spp. have a smaller mean body mass than uninfected individuals. Blood parasites do seem to pose a physiological cost for Neotropical migrant passerines and may be important components of the ecology of these species.