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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) parasitizing migrating and local breeding birds in Finland

Sormunen, Jani J.; Klemola, Tero; Vesterinen, Eero J.


Ticks are globally renowned vectors for numerous zoonoses, and birds have been identified as important hosts for several species of hard ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) and tick-borne pathogens. Many European bird species overwinter in Africa and Western Asia, consequently migrating back to breeding grounds in Europe in the spring. During these spring migrations, birds may transport exotic tick species (and associated pathogens) to areas outside their typical distribution ranges. In Finland, very few studies have been conducted regarding ticks parasitizing migrating or local birds, and existing data are outdated, likely not reflecting the current situation. Consequently, in 2018, we asked volunteer bird ringers to collect ticks from migrating and local birds, to update current knowledge on ticks found parasitizing birds in Finland. In total 430 ticks were collected from 193 birds belonging to 32 species, caught for ringing between 2018 and 2020. Furthermore, four Ixodes uriae were collected from two roosting islets of sea birds in 2016 and 2020. Ticks collected on birds consisted of: Ixodes ricinus (n = 421), Ixodes arboricola (4), Ixodes lividus (2) and Hyalomma marginatum (3). Ixodes ricinus loads (nymphs and larvae) were highest on thrushes (Passeriformes: Turdidae) and European robins (Erithacus rubecula). The only clearly imported exotic tick species was H. marginatum. This study forms the second report of both I. uriae and I. arboricola from Finland, and possibly the northernmost observation of I. arboricola from Europe. The importation of exotic tick species by migrating birds seems a rare occurrence, as over 97% of all ticks collected from birds arriving in Finland during their spring migrations were I. ricinus, a species native to and abundant in Finland.


Birds; Ixodes ricinus; Hyalomma marginatum; Ixodes uriae; Ixodes lividus; Ixodes arboricola; Ticks; Parasitization; Tick load; Migration

Published in

Experimental and Applied Acarology
2021, volume: 86, number: 1, pages: 145-156
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Sormunen, Jani J.
University of Turku
Klemola, Tero
University of Turku
Vesterinen, Eero
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Vesterinen, Eero
University of Turku

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