Song of the wild threatened by introduced parasite
Tuesday January 30, 2007
By Errol Kiong

Mosquitoes can transfer avian malaria by biting introduced species then natives such as the tui. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

Avian malaria parasites found in a quarter of sparrows and blackbirds are threatening to wipe out New Zealand's vulnerable native birds.

The introduced species are left unharmed but carry the parasite, which poses a huge threat to natives such as tui and kokako with little resistance to new diseases. Two outbreaks during the past decade among zoo populations of the New Zealand dotterel and mohua (yellowhead) have shown that an outbreak could be devastating.

Landcare Research epidemiologist Dr Dan Tompkins said: "Sparrows and blackbirds don't seem to be affected at all by it. The scary thing is that they can just carry it.

They've evolved with many of these strains up in the Northern Hemisphere, whereas our native birds have possibly no prior exposure. It's something new coming along that could hit them."

More here .