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Elevated parasite burdens as a potential mechanism affecting northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) population dynamics in the Rolling Plains of West Texas

Abstract

Northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) are a highly sought-after game bird in the Rolling Plains of West Texas. Unfortunately, bobwhite populations in this area are subject to dramatic fluctuations and have been steadily decreasing over the past several decades. While many factors have been investigated as potential mechanisms of cyclic and declining bobwhite numbers, the effect of parasites on bobwhite populations has historically been undervalued. Between December 2017 and February 2018, we received 21 hunter-shot bobwhite from Garza and Mitchell counties in Texas and found peak caecal worm (Aulonocephalus pennula) and eyeworm (Oxyspirura petrowi) burdens averaging 599 and 44, respectively. These represent the highest average parasite loads we have documented in bobwhite from the Rolling Plains thus far and are coincident with widespread reports of declining bobwhite abundance. These elevated infections also followed a high point in bobwhite populations in the Rolling Plains, and our observations of infection dynamics during this time reflect other instances of potential parasite-induced host mortality. While the sample discussed in this communication is small, our findings highlight the need for additional research into how parasites may affect bobwhite population fluctuations in this region.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the hunters that donate bobwhite to the Wildlife Toxicology Laboratory for their dedication and continued involvement in advancing this research.

Funding

This research received funding and support from Park Cities Quail and the Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation.

Author information

Correspondence to Ronald J. Kendall.

Ethics declarations

All hunter-donated quail carcasses were handled according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Research Permit No. SPR-0715-095.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

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Brym, M.Z., Henry, C. & Kendall, R.J. Elevated parasite burdens as a potential mechanism affecting northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) population dynamics in the Rolling Plains of West Texas. Parasitol Res 117, 1683–1688 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-018-5836-4

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Keywords

  • Colinus virginianus
  • Northern bobwhite quail
  • Parasites
  • Rolling Plains
  • West Texas