Investigating avian malaria infection rates

Blood samples are being taken from pied flycatchers and blue tits to discover how infection rates of avian malaria change during the breeding season.

This research aims to identify malaria species and determine malaria infection rates between early and late nesting birds, between years and between other European populations.

Dr Malcolm Burgess, an Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, explained: “Blood samples are taken from birds to discover if they are infected with avian malaria. The young can only have been infected at the study site during the breeding season, but adult pied flycatchers, for example, could have been infected anywhere along their migratory route to western Africa.”

This work feeds in to Dr Burgess’ other research into the migratory patterns of pied flycatchers which uses tracking devices to find out more about their migratory habits, where they winter, and understand if climate change is leading to evolutionary changes in migratory behaviour.