Monday, June 26, 2006

Pity the Poor Robin!

As reported in this article by Cheryl Lyn Dybas in the Washington Post, West Nile Virus-carrying Culex pipiens mosquitos are particularly fond of the blood of the American Robin (Turdus migratorius). For reasons yet unknown, robins accounted for more than 50 percent of the animals that were bitten at study sites in the northeastern U.S. in May and June, yet made up just 4.5 percent of the bird population at those sites. As robins begin departing their breeding grounds in mid- to late summer, Culex mosquitos start looking for alternative food sources, which often turn out to be unsuspecting Homo sapiens, accounting for the late-summer early-fall peak of WNV in humans. The details of this study were published in April in the open-access journal PLoS Biology. We should all be thankful to American Robins for helping to moderate the early-season impact of WNV on humans.

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