Life history characteristics of birds influence patterns of tick parasitism

*Brinkerhoff RJ, Dang L, Streby HM, Gimpel M.

Infection Ecology & Epidemiology, 2018 Nov 27;9(1):1547096.
eCollection 2019.


Birds serve as reservoirs for tick-borne pathogens as well as hosts for
multiple tick species of public health relevance. Birds may perpetuate
life cycles of vectors and vector-borne pathogens and disperse disease
vectors over long distances, supplementing populations at range margins
or seeding invading populations beyond the edges of current tick
distributions. Our goal for this study was to identify life history
characteristics of birds that most strongly affect tick parasitism.

*Materials and Methods*

We collected 6203 ticks from 5426 birds from two sites in eastern North
America and used field-derived parasitism data and published literature
to analyze impacts of life history factors on tick parasitism in birds.

*Results and Discussion*

We identified body size and nest site to have the strongest impact on
tick prevalence and abundance in the songbird species included in this
study. Our findings reveal site-independent patterns in tick parasitism
on birds and suggest that physical more than behavioral characteristics
may influence a bird species’ suitability as a host for ticks.


The data and results published here will contribute to a growing body
of literature and information on bird-tick interactions and will help
elucidate patterns of tick and tick-borne pathogen geographic expansion.

*Free, full text*:


More on the role of Birds:  We provide the first report of a Bbsl-positive Amblyomma longirostre larva parasitizing a bird; this bird parasitism suggests that a Willow Flycatcher is a competent reservoir of Bbsl. Our findings show that Bbsl is present in all provinces, and that multiple tick species are implicated in the enzootic maintenance cycle of this pathogen. Ultimately, Bbsl poses a serious public health contagion Canada-wise.