Several wading bird species in the southeastern US have a history of infection by hematozoa/avian malaria as well as mercury accumulation through their diet, and thus may be exposed to two, generally sublethal, yet chronic, stressors. We analyzed nestling wading birds (n = 171) of varying size and trophic position from the southeastern US, and a smaller sample (n = 23) of older, free-ranging birds, to look for potential interrelationships between infection by hematozoa and mercury (Hg) uptake. Only one nestling was PCR positive for hematozoa (Plasmodium/Haemoproteus) whereas nine (39%) of the older wading birds were positive. Sequencing indicated that both nestling and adult positives were infected with Plasmodium. Given the low infection rate of the nestlings, there was no association between Hg and malaria. The older birds exhibited a possible malaria/Hg association, but it may be confounded by their greater potential exposure period and large-scale movements.
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Vol. 51 • No. 1