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PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24603. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024603. Epub 2011 Sep 23.

Causes of morbidity in wild raptor populations admitted at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Spain from 1995-2007: a long term retrospective study.

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Centre de Fauna Salvatge de Torreferrussa, Catalan Wildlife-Service, Forestal Catalana, Spain.



Morbidity studies complement the understanding of hazards to raptors by identifying natural or anthropogenic factors. Descriptive epidemiological studies of wildlife have become an important source of information about hazards to wildlife populations. On the other hand, data referenced to the overall wild population could provide a more accurate assessment of the potential impact of the morbidity/mortality causes in populations of wild birds.


The present study described the morbidity causes of hospitalized wild raptors and their incidence in the wild populations, through a long term retrospective study conducted at a wildlife rehabilitation centre of Catalonia (1995-2007). Importantly, Seasonal Cumulative Incidences (SCI) were calculated considering estimations of the wild population in the region and trend analyses were applied among the different years. A total of 7021 birds were analysed: 7 species of Strigiformes (n = 3521) and 23 of Falconiformes (n = 3500). The main causes of morbidity were trauma (49.5%), mostly in the Falconiformes, and orphaned/young birds (32.2%) mainly in the Strigiformes. During wintering periods, the largest morbidity incidence was observed in Accipiter gentillis due to gunshot wounds and in Tyto alba due to vehicle trauma. Within the breeding season, Falco tinnunculus (orphaned/young category) and Bubo bubo (electrocution and metabolic disorders) represented the most affected species. Cases due to orphaned/young, infectious/parasitic diseases, electrocution and unknown trauma tended to increase among years. By contrast, cases by undetermined cause, vehicle trauma and captivity decreased throughout the study period. Interestingly, gunshot injuries remained constant during the study period.


Frequencies of morbidity causes calculated as the proportion of each cause referred to the total number of admitted cases, allowed a qualitative assessment of hazards for the studied populations. However, cumulative incidences based on estimated wild raptor population provided a more accurate approach to the potential ecological impact of the morbidity causes in the wild populations.

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