A total of 2,167 individuals representing 15 species of wading birds was examined for infection with the nematode Eustrongylides ignotus in Florida (USA). Ten of the species were infected with the greatest prevalences occurring in great blue herons (Ardea herodius) (33%), great egrets (Casmerodius albus) (22%), and snowy egrets (Egretta thula) (19%). Among nestlings, prevalences increased with age. This parasite was estimated to cause at least 80% mortality among nestling ciconiiforms at one colony in Everglades National Park, and was found in 15% of nestling ardeids throughout the state. Despite wide sampling efforts, infected fish (second intermediate hosts) were only found at six sites in Florida, all of which had been physically altered, such as with canals and ditches, and had an anthropogenic (human-caused) source of nutrient pollution. Colonies near sources of infected fish experienced significantly higher prevalences of eustrongy-lidosis than did colonies for which no source of infected fish could be found within 20 km. Higher prevalences were found at freshwater and estuarine mainland colonies than at marine colonies. Densities of aquatic oligochaetes, which may act as first intermediate hosts, were highest at sites containing infected fish and at sites with a source of nutrient pollution. Conservation and management of wading bird species should include consideration of this disease, epizootics of which seem to be linked to nutrient pollution.
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Vol. 29 • No. 2