Parasitology Research

, Volume 110, Issue 5, pp 2043–2051 | Cite as

Blood parasites, body condition, and wing length in two subspecies of yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava) during migration

  • Peter ShurulinkovEmail author
  • Nayden Chakarov
  • Girgina Daskalova
Original Paper


Blood parasites of migrating yellow wagtails of two subspecies—Motacilla flava feldegg and Motacilla flava flava—were studied on a sample of 473 birds caught in spring and autumn periods in Bulgaria. We controlled eight “migration waves” (flocks captured in different evenings) of yellow wagtails for four parameters—average body mass, average fat level, average wing length, and average prevalence of different hematozoan species. Gametocytes or meronts of a total of six species of hematozoa belonging to three genera were identified—Haemoproteus motacillae, Haemoproteus anthi, Plasmodium relictum, Plasmodium subpraecox, Plasmodium cathemerium, and Tryponosoma avium. Mixed infections were detected in 31 cases, of which 14 were of H. anthi/H. motacillae type. Parasite species composition was similar in the two studied subspecies of M. flava. We did not find any significant differences in the overall infection prevalence or number of infecting parasites between M. f. flava and M. f. feldegg. Parasite prevalence and the number of co-infecting parasites in spring were much higher than in fall. Season had a strong influence on the prevalence of H. anthi and H. motacillae, and for both, there was a marginally significant interaction between subspecies and season, but not a season-independent influence of subspecies. Males of M. f. feldegg had a significantly higher overall blood parasite prevalence and prevalence of H. anthi than females. Sex-related differences in the prevalence of other parasites were not significant. Migration waves of yellow wagtails differed in overall infection status and in H. motacillae prevalence, but not for H. anthi prevalence. We also found significant differences in fat score, weight, and wing length between the studied migration waves of the yellow wagtails. Fat scores of birds infected with different hematozoa were lower compared with those of the non-infected birds. This only marginally was true for body weight and was not the case for wing length. Overall, infected birds were in worse condition (estimated as the residual weight after regression with wing length) compared with the non-infected birds, but after controlling for seasonal effects, the differences in condition appeared to be due to migration season and did not significantly differ between infected and non-infected birds caught in the same season.


Wing Length Migration Season Blood Parasite Autumn Migration Fall Migration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was funded by the National Council for Scientific Research of the Ministry of Education and Science of Bulgaria, contract B-1518 (2005). Nayden Chakarov was supported by the Volkswagen Foundation within its Evolutionary Biology initiative, grant I/84 196.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Shurulinkov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nayden Chakarov
    • 2
  • Girgina Daskalova
    • 3
  1. 1.National Museum of Natural History—SofiaSofiaBulgaria
  2. 2.Department of Animal BehaviourUniversity of BielefeldBielefeldGermany
  3. 3.Bulgarian Society for the Protection of BirdsSlivenBulgaria

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