An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Birds & Ticks

7-18-13  song sparrow with tick 252Several recent studies demonstrate that wild birds are actively transporting ticks and their associated diseases during migration. In addition, a number of bird species are able to contract Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacterial causal agent of Lyme Disease infection) and transmit it to uninfected ticks that parasitize the birds for a blood meal. Since ground-feeding species such as Northern Cardinals, Gray Catbirds, Song Sparrows (pictured) and American Robins spend a significant amount of time foraging for food at the optimal height for ticks, they are excellent hosts and have all demonstrated the ability to infect larval ticks with Borrelia burgdorferi upon their first blood meal. (Look carefully at the Song Sparrow’s neck and you will find a tick.)

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13 responses

  1. Phyllis Utigard

    More tick info! I looked at my frozen tick. I think it’s much larger than yours.

    Phyllis

    July 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm

  2. Kathy Schillemat

    Uggh! Hate ticks!

    July 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm

  3. I had no idea birds actually “got” ticks on them! I thought they ate them. Thanks for posting.

    July 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm

  4. I too had no idea that birds are tick hosts. Are they only carriers of lyme disease or are they able to contract it?

    July 19, 2013 at 11:11 am

    • I don’t believe they can contract it, but I am not 100% positive about that.

      July 20, 2013 at 1:37 am

      • OK, thanks

        July 20, 2013 at 4:09 am

  5. I had just seen similar information in a lyme prevention post but didn’t know specifically about cardinals, sparrows & cat birds all of which feed at my feeders and/or live in my yard. As someone living with lyme and also a bird lover, this makes me very sad. I just came in from walking outside barefoot taking photos of my flowers near my bird feeders – who knew that could be a dangerous activity. 😦

    July 19, 2013 at 11:18 pm

  6. Arlene

    Mary,
    What about Guinea Fowl? They are known as the supreme predators of ticks!

    July 20, 2013 at 1:33 am

    • Yes, they are, indeed. I have no idea whether they also are parasitized by them or not!

      July 20, 2013 at 1:36 am

  7. ht

    Mary,
    I’d love to see you expand on this post for your Valley News column. It deserves a larger, broader audience.

    July 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm

  8. Amy

    Any new news on a lyme vaccine for humans?
    We have a wildflower garden with bird houses and lots of seed eating birds that fly in and out, etc.

    July 22, 2013 at 10:14 am

    • To my knowledge, there is no lyme vaccine currently being used. Unfortunately.

      July 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm

  9. JM

    I used to have several bird feeders in my yard. My dogs and cats got fleas and ticks every summer – until I stopped feeding the birds. It took a couple of feeder-less seasons, but now my pets are free of fleas and ticks . No bird feeders, no pests on my pets.

    July 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm

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