Urbanization and Avian Malaria Infection in Passerine Birds of The Greater New York City Area

Dawn Fariello, Fordham University


Urbanization has well-documented effects on the distribution and establishment of flora and fauna within urban environments. The effects of urbanization on parasites and the potential synergistic impacts of urbanization and parasites for the fauna residing in urban environments is less established. Avian malaria, which is caused by three genera of parasites, is a well-documented disease of birds with considerable impacts on some avian host populations. Avian malaria is cosmopolitan in distribution and well-sampled among some regions, but is relatively under-sampled in the temperate northeast of the United States and the greater New York City area. Those investigations that have been conducted in these areas are over 30 years old and were investigated using outdated techniques. Avian malaria prevalence of infection can vary considerably across sites and hosts, and avian malaria lineages can also structure according to interspecific interactions. Within this dissertation, I addressed each of these three variables. Overall prevalence of infection was determined to be 49% with almost all avian host species and families found to be hosting avian malaria parasites. Relatively few site differences were consistently observed across urban and rural environments. However, community level patterns of avian malaria parasites were observed to have positive relationships with that of the avian host communities they resided within. The strengths of these relationships were found to vary across the three genera according to host species or host family level analysis. Interspecific interactions were found to occur with Leucocytozoon and either Plasmodium or Parahaemoproteus. The significant majority of co-infections were found to be hosted by wintering migrants, and breeding migrants and residents of the greater New York City area harbored far fewer co-infections than expected by random chance. Investigating the combined effects of urbanization and avian malaria distributions is important for continued preservation of avian hosts and monitoring the success of bird populations.

Subject Area

Ecology|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Fariello, Dawn, "Urbanization and Avian Malaria Infection in Passerine Birds of The Greater New York City Area" (2019). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI13901345.