Attention has recently been focused on microbes that occur in the plumage of wild birds and can degrade feathers under laboratory conditions and in poultry-waste composters. In particular, Bacillus licheniformis, a soil bacterium, was found in the plumage of many birds netted in eastern North America, and poultry feathers were rapidly broken down when incubated in a suspension of this bacterium (Burtt and Ichida 1999). If feather-degrading microbes affect wild birds under normal conditions, they may have played an important role in the evolution of molt, plumage color, and sanitation behavior, such as sunning and preening. We performed the first test on whether a feather-degrading bacterium can degrade feathers of live birds housed outdoors under seminatural conditions. We found no evidence that B. licheniformis degraded wing feathers of Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) when applied twice (with a two-week interval) during the winter, despite the fact that it degraded Northern Cardinal feathers when incubated in our laboratory. In a second experiment, we found no evidence that B. licheniformis degraded feathers of European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) when applied twice (with a one-week interval) during the summer, despite the fact that birds were housed in humid conditions that should have favored the growth of B. licheniformis.
Las Bacterias que Degradan Plumas no Afectan las Plumas de Aves en Cautiverio