A recent study by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has determined that a parasite known as Trichomonas gallinae is the primary cause of mortality in band-tailed pigeons. The study found that up to 80 percent of the birds examined had the parasite.
Band-tailed pigeons are a native game bird in California and are also found in other western states and Mexico. They are an important species for hunters and birdwatchers alike. In recent years, however, there has been concern over declines in their populations, particularly in certain regions of the state.
The CDFW began investigating the cause of these declines in 2018. Researchers collected and examined more than 800 band-tailed pigeons from across the state. They found that many of the birds were emaciated and had lesions in their mouths and throats. Testing revealed that the birds had high levels of Trichomonas gallinae.
Trichomonas gallinae is a protozoan parasite that can infect birds, particularly pigeons, and doves. It is transmitted through the birds’ saliva and can cause severe damage to the birds’ internal organs, particularly the throat and crop. Infected birds have difficulty eating and drinking and may become emaciated.
The parasite is not harmful to humans, but it can be transmitted to other birds through contaminated water and food sources. The CDFW is recommending that bird feeders and bird baths be cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of the parasite.
The CDFW is also encouraging hunters to report any sick or dead band-tailed pigeons they encounter. The agency is working with hunters and other stakeholders to develop a management plan for the species that takes into account the impact of Trichomonas gallinae.
The study’s findings have important implications for the conservation of band-tailed pigeons and other bird species. Trichomoniasis is a common disease in birds, and understanding its impact on populations is critical to developing effective conservation strategies. The CDFW’s research is an important step toward protecting this important game bird for future generations.