The importance of passerine birds as tick hosts and in the transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease: a case study from Scotland
Article first published online: 17 MAR 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2011 British Ornithologists’ Union
Volume 153, Issue 2, pages 293–302, April 2011
How to Cite
JAMES, M. C., FURNESS, R. W., BOWMAN, A. S., FORBES, K. J. and GILBERT, L. (2011), The importance of passerine birds as tick hosts and in the transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease: a case study from Scotland. Ibis, 153: 293–302. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2011.01111.x
- Issue published online: 17 MAR 2011
- Article first published online: 17 MAR 2011
- Received 6 April 2010; revision accepted 26 January 2011. Associate Editor: Andrew MacColl.
- Common Blackbird;
- Fringilla coelebs;
- Ixodes ricinus;
- Lyme borreliosis;
- Turdus merula
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) is the causative agent of Lyme borreliosis, the most common tick-borne zoonosis of humans in Europe and North America. Here, we assessed the relative importance of different passerine bird species as tick hosts and their contribution to the B. burgdorferi s.l. transmission cycle in a rural residential area in Scotland. We caught 1229 birds of 22 species during the tick-questing season. On average, 29% carried larval ticks (0.8 larvae per individual) and 5% carried nymph ticks (0.06 nymphs per individual). All attached ticks tested were Ixodes ricinus. Using a nested-PCR, we found that 20% of nymphs tested positive to B. burgdorferi s.l. and all these were of the genospecies Borrelia garinii. We identified two new bird species carrying infected nymphs: Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus and European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris. Ground-foraging species were more important than arboreal species in hosting I. ricinus nymphs and B. burgdorferi s.l. Common Blackbirds Turdus merula were the most common hosts, with Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos, Dunnocks Prunella modularis, European Greenfinches and Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs also hosting high rates of infection.