Deadly Virus Found in Endangered Red Goshawk Birds

Greg Howard
6th May, 2024

Deadly Virus Found in Endangered Red Goshawk Birds

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • A study in Australia found BFDV in 25% of endangered Red Goshawks tested
  • Juvenile Red Goshawks are more prone to BFDV, similar to young parrots
  • BFDV in Red Goshawks may affect their health, indicated by lower body mass
Beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) is a significant pathogen affecting avian species, notably parrots and cockatoos. It causes psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), marked by feather and beak abnormalities, and can lead to severe health issues and even death in birds[2]. The University of Queensland has recently expanded our understanding of this disease with a groundbreaking study[1]. This research has identified a new host of BFDV, the Red Goshawk, an endangered bird of prey in Australia. This discovery is crucial because it sheds light on the potential spread and impact of BFDV beyond the previously known susceptible species. The study by The University of Queensland documented the first instance of BFDV in the Red Goshawk, marking the first time this virus has been reported in an endangered non-psittacine bird. The initial case was found in a deceased nestling, which led to further research involving the collection and analysis of samples from 28 Red Goshawks. The findings were alarming, with BFDV detected in 25% of the birds tested. Notably, juveniles appeared more susceptible than adults, similar to patterns observed in wild psittacine populations[3]. The significance of these findings is multifold. First, it confirms that BFDV can infect a broader range of species than previously recognized, including birds of prey. Earlier studies had shown that non-psittacine birds could harbor BFDV without showing clinical signs, suggesting these species might act as reservoirs for the virus[2]. Additionally, a novel host switch event was reported where BFDV infected the rainbow bee-eaters, indicating that avian circoviruses might cross into different avian families more easily than once thought[4]. The genotypes of BFDV found in the Red Goshawks were linked to bird species that are part of the Red Goshawk's diet. This suggests a possible route of transmission through predation. While the study did not find a statistically significant correlation due to the small sample size, there was an indication that BFDV-positive birds might have a lower body mass, hinting at the potential health impacts of the virus on these raptors. The implications of this research are profound for conservation efforts and the management of avian diseases. BFDV's ability to infect and potentially affect the health of endangered species like the Red Goshawk raises concerns about the virus's role in the decline of vulnerable bird populations. The findings underscore the need for comprehensive surveillance of BFDV in both psittacine and non-psittacine birds, as well as the importance of biosecurity measures in wildlife rehabilitation and veterinary settings[2]. In conclusion, The University of Queensland's study has provided new insights into the host range of BFDV, revealing that even endangered birds of prey are not immune to this pathogen. This research highlights the complexity of disease dynamics in wild avian populations and the importance of ongoing monitoring and research to understand the full impact of BFDV on bird species, both common and endangered. It calls for future studies to explore the virus's infectivity, transmission routes, and effects on host fitness, which will be crucial for informing conservation strategies and mitigating the risks posed by BFDV to avian biodiversity.

WildlifeHealthAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Beak and feather disease virus detected in the endangered Red Goshawk (Erythrotriorchis radiatus).

Published 4th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) A high prevalence of beak and feather disease virus in non-psittacine Australian birds.

3) Beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) prevalence, load and excretion in seven species of wild caught common Australian parrots.

4) Evidence of a deep viral host switch event with beak and feather disease virus infection in rainbow bee-eaters (Merops ornatus).

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