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J Med Entomol. 1996 Jul;33(4):581-5.

Spring migratory birds (Aves) extend the northern occurrence of blacklegged tick (Acari:Ixodidae).

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Department of Biology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada.


Birds that had migrated northward across Lake Superior were captured upon reaching landfall at Thunder Cape (48 degrees 18' N, 88 degrees 56' W) at the southwestern tip of the Sibley Peninsula, northwestern Ontario, from 9 May to 9 June 1995. Twenty-one of 530 birds examined (6 of 55 species) had a total of 34 ticks; 1 blue jay, Cyanocitta cristata, had a northern fowl mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum (Canestrini & Fanzago). Four blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say, larvae were found on an American robin, Turdus migratorius, and 2 on a chipping sparrow, Spizella passerina. This tick was not found on small mammals at Thunder Cape. Twenty-six larvae and a nymph of the rabbit tick, Haemaphysalis leporispalustris (Packard) were found on 1 American robin, 2 Swainson's thrushes, Catharus ustulatus, 1 white-throated sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis, 1 common yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas, 1 blue jay, and 12 chipping sparrows. A nymph of H. chordeilis (Packard) occurred on 1 chipping sparrow. Results demonstrate that northward migrating birds transport larvae of I. scapularis to areas of Ontario where the tick does not appear to have become established in small mammal populations. Spring migrants may be more involved in the dispersal of I. scapularis larvae than previously thought. Cooler temperatures and shorter seasons experienced in the more northerly, continental parts of the established distribution of this tick may extend the life cycle, resulting in a predominance of larvae rather than nymphs being acquired by northward-bound birds in early spring. Consequently, the role of spring migrating birds in the northward spread of I. scapularis and of borreliosis should be reevaluated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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