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Data from: Experimental feeding regime influences urban bird disease dynamics

Cite this dataset

Galbraith, Josie A.; Stanley, Margaret C.; Jones, Darryl N.; Beggs, Jacqueline R. (2016). Data from: Experimental feeding regime influences urban bird disease dynamics [Dataset]. Dryad.


Wild bird feeding often results in high densities of birds, potentially facilitating transmission of disease. Wild birds are major reservoirs of many zoonotic diseases, and although a number of avian disease outbreaks have been linked to bird feeders, urban bird-feeding and its role in disease systems remains poorly studied. We examined the impacts of typical supplementary feeding practices on the health status of feeder-visiting birds at experimental feeding stations in an urban area of New Zealand. Over an 18-month period, we screened birds captured at feeding and non-feeding properties for three pathogens and four groups of parasites to determine whether feeding altered disease dynamics. We also assessed body condition. All pathogens and parasites were detected in at least one garden bird species. Feeding stations tested positive for Salmonella enterica Typhimurium on ∼7% of occasions, confirming that structures used in feeding are a potential transmission pathway. Feeding influenced some parasite infection parameters; these effects varied among host species. In silvereyes Zosterops lateralis, helminth prevalence and abundance were lower at feeding properties compared to non-feeding properties. In contrast, Eurasian blackbirds Turdus merula at feeding properties had a higher abundance of helminths. House sparrows Passer domesticus at feeding properties had a higher abundance of feather lice. Furthermore, our feeding regime significantly affected body condition in house sparrow and silvereye, though no associations between parasite parameters and body condition indices were found. Our results demonstrate that feeding practices can have varied effects on avian health, including no observable effects for some disease agents in some host species. Disease risks are present, however, thus understanding and reducing these risks should be a key goal for all stakeholders to protect birds that use feeders and other wildlife.

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New Zealand