Abstract The existence of latitudinal gradients in species richness and their abundance is known for many free living organisms but few cases have been reported for parasitic diseases. In addition, asymmetries between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres in several characteristics may affect the distribution and diversity of species at all ecological levels. In this respect, we study the distribution of several genera of blood parasites infecting birds along a latitudinal gradient that includes the world's southernmost forests ecosystems. Birds were mist-netted and sampled for blood in localities across Chile ranging from 33°S to 55°S during the years 2003–06. Overall, 26 bird species were sampled and 27 parasite lineages were identified. The latter belonged to three genera: Plasmodium (8), Haemoproteus (8) and Leucocytozoon (11). We found a positive significant relationship between prevalence and latitude for Leucocytozoon lineages and a negative relationship for Haemoproteus, Plasmodium and mixed infections. However, we did not find a significant relationship between parasite diversity and latitude. We found 18 lineages infecting only one species of host, and 19 lineages appear in only one of the localities of sampling. This pattern implies that some parasite lineages may evolve in isolation in some species/localities. In addition, specificity at the host-family level was only found for Haemoproteus lineages infecting birds in the family Emberizidae. Individuals of the long distance migrant bird white-crested elaenia (Elaenia albiceps), were found infected by the same parasite lineages in localities separated by 20° of latitude. Infections by these lineages were detected in other sedentary birds including juveniles and nestlings of different bird species. Therefore, long distance migrants are able to distort the presence of latitudinal gradients of diseases due to the potential role of migrants in spreading infections. Geographical gradients in prevalence of avian haematozoa differ between parasite genera and hemispheres, probably in relation to the existence of appropriate vector–parasite–host interactions.