A histopathologic study of free-ranging hummingbirds found in California, US was performed to identify mortality trends. Tissues from 61 wild hummingbirds representing five native California species collected by the San Diego Zoo from 1996 to 2016 or the Lindsay Wildlife Experience from 2015 to 2017 were histologically examined. Birds were either found dead or moribund at the time of submission or were euthanized due to unresolvable health issues. Long-term rehabilitated birds were excluded from this study. Lesions were sorted by organ, etiology, and gender. The most commonly affected organs were the lung (68%, 40/59), followed by the ingluvies (67%, 34/51) and the liver (54%, 33/61). While some birds had minimal or nonspecific lesions, 23% (14/61) had lesions primarily attributable to trauma, 16% (10/61) had lesions associated with bacteria, fungi, or viruses, 11% (7/61) had parasitic lesions, and 13% (8/61) had multifactorial concurrent processes. Infectious disease lesions included those associated with avian poxvirus, intestinal adenovirus, disseminated aspergillosis, bacterial septicemia, malaria (Haemoproteus spp.), and mycobacteriosis. The most commonly identified parasitic infection was intestinal cestodiasis, for which there was no significant associated intestinal damage, although the large size of these cestodes may have affected digestion. The incidence of traumatic lesions did not vary significantly by sex, age, species, or sampling location. Other significant findings not related to disease or trauma, but not previously documented, were histologic evidence of a gallbladder and the presence of aortic ossification. Our study reported mortality trends at a population level for free-ranging hummingbirds found in California and identified the presence of intestinal adenovirus and two anatomic structures not previously described.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2