The flightless cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi) is an endemic species of the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. Health studies of the species have not previously been conducted. In August 2003, baseline samples were collected from flightless cormorant colonies on the islands of Isabela and Fernandina. Seventy-six birds, from nestlings to adults, were evaluated. Genetic sexing of 70 cormorants revealed 37 females and 33 males. Hematology assessment consisted of packed cell volume (n=19), leukograms (n=69), and blood smear evaluation (n=69). Microscopic evaluation of blood smears revealed microfilaria in 33% (23/69) of the cormorants. Plasma chemistries were performed on 46 cormorants. There was no significant difference in chemistry values or complete blood counts between male and female cormorants or between age groups. Based on a serologic survey to assess exposure to avian pathogens, birds (n=69) were seronegative for West Nile virus, avian paramyxovirus type 1 (Newcastle disease virus), avian paramyxovirus types 2 and 3, avian influenza, infectious bursal disease, infectious bronchitis, Marek's disease (herpes), reovirus, avian encephalomyelitis, and avian adenovirus type 2. Antibodies to avian adenovirus type 1 and Chlamydophila psittaci were found in 31% (21/68) and 11% (7/65) of flightless cormorants respectively. Chlamydophila psittaci was detected via polymerase chain reaction in 6% (2/33) of the cormorants. The overall negative serologic findings of this research suggest that the flightless cormorant is an immunologically naïve species, which may have a reduced capacity to cope with the introduction of novel pathogens.
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Vol. 42 • No. 1