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Cryptosporidiosis has been reported in more than 30 avian species worldwide including gulls Larus species (Smith and others 1993), birds of prey (Falconiformes) (van Zeeland and others 2008), owls (Otus scops) (Molina-Lopez and others 2010) and gamebirds (Sironi and others 1991, Pages-Mante and others 2007). In virtually all cases, respiratory disease associated with infection by Cryptosporidium baileyi was among animals kept in captivity. In autumn 2010, the first case of respiratory cryptosporidiosis in wild red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus was observed in six birds caught on a moor in the North Pennine Dales in the UK (Coldwell and others 2012). The cryptosporidia was identified as C. baileyi by PCR sequencing. Infected grouse were observed on a further moor in the same region in autumn 2011. Prior to 2010, annual examination of thousands of birds shot since 1980 as part of ongoing research into the effects of parasitic strongyle worms on grouse had not found any infected birds. Prompted by further records from several moors of grouse exhibiting signs of cryptosporidiosis, we circulated a questionnaire among grouse moor managers in northern England to gauge how many moors had infected grouse.
The questionnaire was distributed to managers of 150 known grouse moors in northern England in autumn 2012, updated in autumn 2013. We asked whether grouse exhibiting typical signs of cryptosporidiosis—‘bulgy eye’ caused by swollen eyelids and mucus discharge from the …