The significance of birds as the hosts of ticks and the role of migratory birds in the dispersal of tick-borne diseases

Latest version published by Taiwan Biodiversity Information Facility (TaiBIF) on 23 May 2020 Taiwan Biodiversity Information Facility (TaiBIF)
Publication date:
23 May 2020
CC-BY-NC 4.0

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A variety of human diseases transmitted by arthropod vectors, including ticks, are emerging around the globe. Because the composition of wildlife host species can determine the abundance of ticks as well as the diseases they can transmit, assessing the relative importance of potential wildlife hosts to the subsistence of ticks are valuable for the prevention of infectious diseases. Birds are known to be one of the primary hosts of ticks and migratory birds can help disperse exotic ticks and tick-borne diseases. In Taiwan, however, past studies have mainly focused on mammals, leaving the role of birds in the subsistence of ticks undetermined. In this study, ticks were collected from both migratory and resident birds from several sources, including from birds mist-netted in seven study sites between September 2014 and April 2016 and from birds handled by other experts. Tick species were later identified based on both morphological and molecular information, and potential pathogens were detected in these ticks. The seven study sites were surveyed for a sum of 56 times, with 4145 captures of 3062 unique individuals of 86 bird species. These included 59 resident species and 27 migratory bird species. Based on ticks collected from mist-netted birds and specimens collected by other researchers, a total of 130 ticks belonging to at least 12 species were recovered, including five species not recorded and one species unconfirmed in Taiwan before. The tick fauna also includes two species commonly recovered from rodents. At least three Borrelia strains, three Rickettsia strains, one Anaplasma strain, one Ehrlichia strain, one Devosia strain, and one Babesia strain were successfully sequenced from ticks. Moreover, a Borrelia strain potentially pathogenic to humans was detected in ticks of migratory birds for the first time in Taiwan. Results of this study emphasize the importance of studying ticks in birds to help assess current and further status of tick-borne diseases in Taiwan.

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The publisher and rights holder of this work is Taiwan Biodiversity Information Facility (TaiBIF). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC-BY-NC) 4.0 License.

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Jen-Kai Wang
  • Originator
Research Assistant
National Taiwan Normal University
Chi-Chien Kuo
  • Metadata Provider
  • User
  • Point Of Contact
assistant professor
National Taiwan Normal University

Geographic Coverage


Bounding Coordinates South West [21.617, 117.751], North East [26.215, 123.223]