The Potential Impact of Disease on the Migratory Structure of a Partially Migratory Passerine Population

  • Paul HurtadoEmail author
Original Article


Since its introduction into eastern North America in the 1940s, the eastern population of house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) has become partially migratory, unlike its nonmigratory source population in southern California (Able and Belthoff in Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 265 (1410), 2063–2071, 1998; Belthoff and Gauthreaux in Condor 93, 374–382, 1991). The infectious disease mycoplasmal conjunctivitis (pathogen Mycoplasma gallisepticum or “MG”, which has been monitored in the house finch population since its appearance around 1993 (Dhondt et al. in J. Wild. Dis. 34 (2), 265–280, 1998), may induce higher mortality rates among populations in more northerly latitudes relative to more southerly populations. Here, we investigate the potential impact of this differential disease mortality on the migratory structure of the eastern house finch population using an epidemic modeling approach. Analytical and computational results suggest the ongoing MG epidemic in the eastern house finch could lead to increases in the percentage of and the total number of migrating individuals in a population despite overall population declines, assuming relatively high winter mortality rates in the north eastern part of their range. These results also suggest that empirical evidence of such a change in migratory structure would be most noticeable in northerly inland populations that showed significant declines following the initial outbreak of MG in the east.


House finch Carpodacus mexicanus Mycoplasma gallisepticum Wildlife disease Seasonality Dynamics 


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Copyright information

© Society for Mathematical Biology 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Applied MathematicsCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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