Natural (n = 157) and experimental (n = 5) infections with the nematode Eustrongylides ignotus are described for ciconiforms collected in Florida (USA). Larvae perforated the ventriculus in 3 to 5 hr and caused hemorrhage and bacterial peritonitis that sometimes progressed to a fibrous peritonitis with extensive adhesions. Severity of the disease was related inversely to the age of the bird and directly to the number of parasites involved. Some infections in adult birds were resolved. As a consequence of eustrongylidosis, anorexia and behavioral abnormalities resulted in emaciation and may have predisposed birds to traumatic death. Host–parasite adaptations apparently were not adequate for nestling ciconiforms as death of nestlings usually occurred before infections become patent (longer than 14 days, less than 23 days). Patent infections were found in both color morphs of the great blue heron (Ardea herodius), and in great egrets (Casmerodius albus) and snowy egrets (Egretta thula). We propose that birds of the family Ardeidae are the primary definitive hosts.
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