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Keywords:

  • Avian pox virus;
  • chickens;
  • Darwin's finches;
  • disease spillover;
  • Floreana mockingbird;
  • Philornis downsi

Abstract

Reintroductions are increasingly utilized for the conservation of endangered avian species. To avert disease-related failures, studies to determine disease risks should be performed prior to the implementation of any avian reintroduction program. The presence, and prevalence, of disease-causing agents in both the source population and in birds at the site of reintroduction may help better direct reintroduction programs. In this study, we determined the prevalence of parasitic and pathogenic agents in chickens and wild birds on Floreana Island prior to the reintroduction of the critically endangered Floreana mockingbird Mimus trifasciatus. We investigated avian diseases on Floreana in 175 chickens and 274 wild birds. In addition to a number of clinical abnormalities, chickens tested positive for antibodies to paramyxovirus-1 (30%), adenovirus (11.3%) and seven other pathogens of concern for both domestic and wild birds. Wild birds on Floreana had antibodies to paramyxovirus-1 (3.0%) and adenovirus (2.4%). This is the first report of possible spillover of disease from domestic to wild birds in the archipelago. Based on these findings, and the lack of disease exposure documented in the source mockingbird population, we recommend improved poultry biosecurity measures on Floreana, and that mockingbirds only be reintroduced in areas on the island far from poultry and human presence and following further prerelease analyses. This study provides valuable data for the reintroduction of this iconic bird species and serves as a template for other avian reintroduction programs.