Birds on the Move: Understanding Bird Movements and Disease Spread in Human-Altered Landscapes

In November, Kamran Safi from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior visited the CEAB-CSIC team leaded by Frederic Bartumeus and the Girona study area: the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Natural Park. This visit was instrumental in familiarizing with the study area and engaging with local stakeholders: the park staff, regional mosquito control officials, and local ornithologists.

The meeting facilitated the selection of five common and abundant bird species present across various study zones for tracking their mobility patterns using GPS or Sigfox biologging. While bird migration and mobility have been studied on large scales, there’s limited data on the daily mobility of resident species and the impact of the landscape on their movements. Understanding these aspects is vital to determine the role different species play in transmitting pathogens like the West Nile virus across areas, such as from marshes or rice fields to peri-urban or urban zones.

Wild birds, being primary hosts of the virus, play a crucial role in its spread, thereby shaping the epidemiology of the disease. Assessing how they connect habitats and transfer pathogens is particularly crucial in human-altered landscapes where pathogen spillover between birds and humans can be facilitated. The lack of detailed information in the dissemination process of zoonotic pathogens undermines risk assessments and management plans. A key goal of WP5 is to quantify the mobility of various host species to develop a spatially-explicit approach to wildlife epidemiology.