Effects of tick Ixodes ricinus infestation on pheasant Phasianus colchicus breeding success and survival
Hoodless AN., Kurtenbach K., Nuttall PA., Randolph SE.
In some parts of Britain, pheasants Phasianus colchicus are infested by Ixodes ricinus ticks in the spring and summer. The effects of experimental reduction of tick infestation levels on the breeding success and survival of reared female pheasants were studied on two estates in southern England during 1995-1997. Females were radio-tagged and half of the birds, selected at random, were fitted with a slow-release acaricide, which substantially reduced their tick burdens. Clutch survival was significantly higher for treated females throughout the three-year study period, and hence more chicks were hatched by treated females (3.30 ± 0.86) than by control females (0.70 ± 0.36), even though treated and control birds produced the same numbers of clutches and eggs. During April-July, the female survival rate was significantly higher for acaricide-treated birds, showing an improvement of 10-15% over that of control birds each year. While these impacts will be of minor importance where annual pheasant releasing takes place to supplement autumn stocks for shooting, they might reduce the potential harvest on estates with wild pheasants or on those aiming to re-establish self-sustaining naturalised populations.