Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Evidence for the exchange of blood parasites between North America and the Neotropics in blue-winged teal (Anas discors)

June 21, 2016

Blue-winged teal (Anas discors) are abundant, small-bodied dabbling ducks that breed throughout the prairies of the northcentral USA and central Canada and that winter in the southern USA and northern Neotropics. Given the migratory tendencies of this species, it is plausible that blue-winged teal may disperse avian pathogens, such as parasites causing avian malaria, between spatially distant areas. To test the hypothesis that blue-winged teal play a role in the exchange of blood parasites between North America and areas further south, we collected information on migratory tendencies of this species and sampled birds at spatially distant areas during breeding and non-breeding periods to diagnose and genetically characterize parasitic infections. Using a combination of band recovery data, satellite telemetry, molecular diagnostics, and genetic analyses, we found evidence for (1) migratory connectivity of blue-winged teal between our sampling locations in the Canadian prairies and along the US Gulf Coast with areas throughout the northern Neotropics, (2) parasite acquisition at both breeding and non-breeding areas, (3) infection of blue-winged teal sampled in Canada and the USA withPlasmodium parasite lineages associated with the Neotropics, and (4) infection of blue-winged teal with parasites that were genetically related to those previously reported in waterfowl in both North America and South America. Collectively, our results suggest that blue-winged teal likely play a role in the dispersal of blood parasites between the Neotropics and North America, and therefore, the targeting of this species in surveillance programs for the early detection of Neotropical-origin avian pathogens in the USA may be informative.

Related Content