abstract

Prothonotary warbler (Protonotaria citrea) has shown a long-term decline in abundance in the United States. As a long-range migrant, these warblers are exposed to parasites in both tropical and temperate regions. The focus of this study was to use molecular techniques to examine the temporal prevalence patterns of heamosopridian parasites Plasmodium and Haemoproteus in breeding prothonotary warblers. The prevalence (presence or absence) of Plasmodium and Haemoproteus species was assayed using primer sets for the cytochrome b gene of the mitochondrial DNA. Blood samples were obtained from 187 adult prothonotary warblers collected at 3 central Virginia, U.S.A., breeding sites. The relationship between haemosporidian parasite infections and reproductive success also was examined. We found that 71% of captured prothonotary warblers were infected with haemosporidian parasites, specifically, with 36% prevalence for Haemoproteus spp. and 44% prevalence for Plasmodium spp., during the 2008 breeding season; for both parasites, prevalence increased throughout the season. We found significant variation in haemosporidian parasite prevalence across the breeding season that was strongly site specific. Conversely, we found no significant effects of haemosporidian parasite infections on the reproductive success of prothonotary warblers. This is in sharp contrast to recent reports suggesting considerable effects of these parasites on the reproductive success of wild birds.

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