2015-07-21

In search of avian parasites


Very conveniently we could use a bridge constructed for visitors to erect the nets. The 3916 meter high Mount Erciyes in the background.
Sultan Marshes is a huge wetland complex situated 300 km south east of Ankara, Central Anatolia, at the foot of Mount Ercieys, a since long inactive volcano that serves as a wonderful background to the sceneries. In the dry plains of Anatolia the Sultan Marshes is a very important stopover site for millions of wetland birds that migrate along the eastern flyway between Africa and the Palearctic. It is also a very important breeding site. I do not have access to numbers but breeding pairs of flamingos, ferruginous ducks, purple herons and great reed warblers should count in several thousands, marsh harriers and little bitterns in hundreds. Rare breeders include marbled duck and white-headed duck.
Between July 3-8 I participated in a project to study the transmission of parasites between local and migrating birds. The focus is on blood parasites (avian malaria) and ectoparasites (lice, ticks and mites) and also includes sampling of the vector community. The project is funded by the Turkish Research Council (TUBITAK) and run by researchers from Erciyes Üniversitesi (Kayseri), in collaboration with researchers at Ondokuz Mayıs Üniversitesi (Samsun) and Selçuk Üniversitesi (Konya). During the four days of catching we obtained samples from more than 200 birds and countless numbers of mosquitoes and biting midges. The data will be useful for answering a number of basic questions on the links of parasite transmission between resident and migrating birds.
The little bittern is evidently an important nest predator. One of the seven captured individuals had regurgitated 3 chicks of what we identified as week-old moustached warblers. These were found in the bottom of the bag where the little bittern had been stored until ringing and blood sampling.
 //Staffan Bensch

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