Autochthonous and migratory birds as a dispersion source for Ixodes ricinus in southern Italy
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The present study was carried out in a protected wooded area, which is part of the Parco Regionale Gallipoli Cognato Piccole Dolomiti Lucane, one of the most important ecological reserves in southern Italy. From April 2010 to April 2011, 212 birds, comprising 22 species from 12 families, were captured and examined for ticks. A total of 75 (35.4 %) birds were found infested by ticks, with 451 ticks being collected. All ticks were identified as Ixodes ricinus, of which 241 (53.4 %) were larvae and 210 nymphs (46.6 %). The highest intensity of infestation was found in April 2010, when 117 ticks were retrieved on 25 birds. No ticks were found on birds (n = 5) netted in December 2010. High infestation rates were recorded on blackbirds (Turdus merula) (90 %; 29 birds examined) and on mistle thrushes (Turdus viscivorus) (100 %; 2 birds examined). The highest intensity of infestation by larvae was found on wrens (5.6 larvae/bird) and by nymphs on mistle thrushes (11.5 nymphs/bird). Temperature and number of hours of light showed to influence the activity of larvae and nymphs. These data support the notion that birds may be responsible for the heterogeneous distribution of I. ricinus in Europe, thus playing a role in the epidemiology of certain tick-borne pathogens.