Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) from Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, St. Tammany Parish and from adjacent St. Helena Parish, Louisiana (USA) were observed to have broken and frayed rectrices. The condition was noted in 21% of 90 wild turkeys harvested by hunters during the springs of 1985 through 1988 from the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area. Damage to feathers ranged from mild to severe. Histologic and microbiologic study of five birds disclosed colonization and invasion of the rachis sheath and pulp by fungi of the genera Aspergillus, Curvularia, Cladosporium, Dactylella, Exophiala, Helminthosporium and Trichophyton and by Streptomyces. Sterilized normal rectrices from wild turkeys were inoculated with these organisms and subsequently developed damage that was histologically compatible with field cases. The condition was diagnosed as a multiple etiology mycosis. Successful colonization and invasion of experimentally inoculated feathers required addition of moisture and elevation of relative humidity within the cultures. The apparent high moisture requirements of the fungi suggest that late winter and early spring flooding may be a probable predisposing factor for this condition.
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Vol. 25 • No. 4