Ten thin blood smears from mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) infected with Haemoproteus maccallumi were examined by each of two observers using identical techniques and microscopy in an attempt to delineate the factors necessary to provide an accurate estimate of the number of parasites/n erythrocytes. The number of erythrocytes examined must be actually counted, not estimated from extrapolated partial counts or from the number of fields of view examined. Doubling the number of erythrocytes counted (1) decreased the overdispersed frequency distribution patterns in only 25% of the replicate counts for numbers of H. maccallumi/100 erythrocytes for a series of 2,000 versus 4,000 erythrocytes counted; and (2) did not significantly increase the accuracy for determining parasite intensities. Thus, the number of erythrocytes that must be counted to determine parasite intensities could be considerably reduced from the 10,000 or 20,000 estimated for most studies, and still provide an accurate determination of the number of parasites/n erythrocytes in datasets collected from hosts with moderate to high levels of parasitemia. This resulted in a decreased amount of time expended by the observer on each blood smear examined. With two equivalently trained individuals, differences between observers examining the same blood smears were minimal. This study suggests an approach by which a more standardized methodology for quantifying blood parasite intensities could be developed.
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