North-African house martins endure greater haemosporidian infection than their European counterparts

Van Rooyen, J., Jenkins, T., Lahlah, N., & Christe, P. (2014). North-African house martins endure greater haemosporidian infection than their European counterparts. Journal of Avian Biology 45(5): 450–456. doi:10.1111/jav.00408


Afro-Palearctic migrant species are exposed to parasites at both breeding and over-wintering grounds. The house martin Delichon urbicum is one such migratory species facing high instances of blood parasite infection. In an attempt to determine whether breeding European house martins harbour similar blood parasite communities to populations breeding in North Africa, birds were sampled at their breeding grounds in Switzerland and Algeria. Moreover, haemosporidian prevalence and parasite communities were compared to published data sets on Spanish and Dutch breeding populations. This study furthermore wanted to establish whether co-infection with multiple genera or lineages of parasites had negative effects on host body condition. Breeding house martins caught in Algeria showed a higher prevalence of avian haemosporidian parasites than did European populations. Swiss house martins showed a prevalence comparable to that of Spanish and Dutch populations. There were slight differences in the haemosporidian community between European and North-African populations in terms of composition and abundance of each lineage. Similar to the Dutch house martins, but in contrast to the Spanish population, infection status and number of genera of parasites infecting single hosts did not influence Swiss house martin body condition.