Post 1

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a six-part series

You know that malaria is deadly. But did you know that birds suffer from their own version of the disease? Here are 8 things that everyone needs to know!

Passerines are birds that, like the Red Fody, have a unique foothold that enables them to sit on a perch.

Passerines are birds that, like the Red Fody, have a unique foothold that enables them to sit on a perch. ( Taken from Bahrain bird report (2008), URL: http://www.hawar-islands.com/blog/bugs_stub.php?cat=213)%5B10th November 2014].

  1. It’s a common infectious disease found in wild birds.
  2. The disease mainly affects so-called passerine birds-this includes more than half of all bird species! These birds have three toes pointing forward, and one back like this one above…
  3. Avian malaria is caused by single-celled parasites-Plasmodiumand is spread through the bites of other parasites-mosquitoes (see more in post 3).

Avian malaria has contributed to the extinction of at least 10 native bird species in Hawaii, and threatens many more.

HAWAIIAN HONEYCREEPER (a native forest bird). Avian malaria has contributed to the extinction of at least 10 native bird species in Hawaii, and threatens many more. (Taken from Utah birds (2013), URL: http://www.utahbirds.org/PicOfMonth/Iiwi.htm) [14th November 2014].

4.The disease continues to play a significant role in the decline and extinction of highly susceptible populations i.e. native Hawaiian forest birds (see above).

5. The incidence of this disease has nearly tripled in the last 70 years around the world.

6. Now reports are saying Britain’s birds are suffering from the disease! In fact, there’s actually a good chance that birds visiting your bird feeder are carrying the disease. Yikes! But let me stop the exaggeration. Check out Avian malaria in Europe (pp.69) to find out why the impact of malaria on endemic avian wildlife will be less over here!

7. It does not always appear to affect birds as drastically as the human version affects us. While many birds that carry avian malaria become weak and may eventually die, some individuals can remain healthy (see later posts for further information).

and…

8. Fortunately, humans cannot be infected with avian malaria. Rest assured.

You had me worrying there!

Cor, you had me worrying there. PHEW!

Useful references

LaPointe, D.A., Atkinson, C.T., Samuel, M.D. (2014). Ecology and conservation biology of avian malaria. Ann.N.Y. Acad.Sci.,1249:211-226.

Image taken from: http://joseangelolorenzogomos.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/paralanguage-dc-5-types-of-non-verbal-communication/ [14th November 2014].

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