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Impacts of trichomonosis epidemics on Greenfinch Chloris chloris and Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs populations in Finland

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Email: aleksi.lehikoinen@helsinki.fi

Abstract

Population consequences of parasites in wild birds are rarely documented. One exception is the decline of British finch populations due to an epidemic caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae. Finch trichomonosis has recently spread from the UK to northern Europe, but its consequences for local finch populations have not been studied. We assessed the extent to which the trichomonosis epidemic affected the Finnish population sizes of European Greenfinch Chloris chloris, Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs and a control species, Great Tit Parus major, and the body condition of Greenfinches. The disease was first documented in Finland in 2008 and epidemics were observed mainly in southwestern Finland. Greenfinches showed a significant decline of 47% in breeding numbers and 65% in wintering numbers in southern Finland during 2006–2010. Breeding Chaffinch numbers showed a slight decline (4%) during the same study period that was significant only in central Finland. Great Tit did not show a significant change in breeding numbers. During the initial disease epidemic the body condition of all demographic groups of Greenfinches decreased equally, which suggests that the disease was not selective in respect of age or sex. There were no encounters of Finnish-ringed Greenfinches or Chaffinches in the UK, which could indicate that the parasite has not necessarily been transferred directly from the UK, but perhaps by migrants from Sweden and Germany.

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Ancillary