Trichomonas gallinae in wintering Common Wood Pigeons Columba palumbus in Spain

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We studied the prevalence and potential subclinical effects of infestation by Trichomonas gallinae in 91 hunter-harvested Common Wood Pigeons Columba palumbus from northern (n = 30) and southern (n = 61) Spain during the winter period. All animals were measured, sexed, aged, necropsied and their organs were weighed. Infestation with T. gallinae was diagnosed using three different methods: direct inspection for the presence of lesions, direct microscopic observation and culture. Of the sampled birds, 34.2% were positive for the presence of T. gallinae. Prevalence was significantly higher in adult Wood Pigeons than in the juvenile group, and prevalence was significantly lower in birds sampled from the north. No significant differences in prevalence were found between males and females. Culture was significantly more sensitive than the other methods of diagnosis. Parasitized birds were in poorer body condition, as revealed by their lower body mass and fat reserves. No significant variation could be detected in heart or spleen weight between parasitized and healthy birds. However, juvenile Wood Pigeons in which T. gallinae was detected had a significantly larger bursa of Fabricius. Variations in the prevalence of T. gallinae in Wood Pigeons could be related to migration as well as increased exposure through shared feed and water where these are artificially provided. We also discuss the potential effect of T. gallinae on body condition and the eventual risk for endangered predators through increased exposure to infected prey.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2006

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