Seventy one (71) each of Streptopelia senegalensis and Columba livia domestica were trapped/bought from the wild and the market, anaesthetised and examined for ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths. 7(9.86%) S. senegalensis and 43(60.56%) C. livia domestica were infested with ectoparasites. Streptopelia senegalensis was infested by 2 species, Goniodes species (7.04%) and Columbicola columbae (2.82%) while C. livia domestica was infected by three species, Goniodes sp. (25.35%), Columbicola columbae (19.72%) and Pseudolynchia caraniensis (11.27%). Among the gastro-intestinal helminths recovered was the nematode, Ascaridia galli (25.35%) from C. livia domestica. The cestodes recovered included five morphologically distinct species of Raillietina (species 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) recovered from both bird species with prevalences of 9.86%, 8.45%, 4.23% 2.82% and 2.82% respectively, in S. senegalensis, and 5.63%, 5.63%, 4.23%, 4.23% and 5.63% respectively, in C. livia domestica. Two additional cestodes, Killigrewia delafondi and Choanotaenia sp. were recovered from the two bird species with respective prevalences of 4.23% and 5.63% in S. senegalensis, and 2.82% and 4.23% in C. livia domestica. Streptopelia senegalensis had total/overall ectoparasite prevalences of 5.63% and 4.23% in the wet and dry seasons, and C. livia domestica had prevalences of 29.58% and 30.99% in wet and dry seasons, respectively. Similarly, seasonal overall prevalence of cestodes (23.94% and 28.17%) occurred in wet and dry seasons in S. senegalensis, and (22.54% and 9.89%) in C. livia domestica. Meanwhile, the only nematode recovered, and only from C. livia domestica, occurred in both the wet and dry seasons with prevalences of 18.31% and 7.04% respectively. Males of S. senegalensis and C. livia domestica had respective ectoparasite prevalences of 7.32% and 22.54%, while females had prevalences of 13.33% and 38.04% respectively. Cestodes had prevalences of 33.80% and 9.86% in males, and 18.31% and 22.54% in females of S. senegalensis and C. livia domestica respectively. A nematode prevalence of 7.04% in male and 18.31% in female C. livia domestica was recorded. The weight of the two birds did not appear to influence parasite prevalence in either the wet or the dry season. Ectoparasite and nematode prevalences with respect to C. livia domestica were significantly higher than those of S. senegalensis (P<0 .05="" but="" differences="" i="" in="" no="" relation="" significant="" the="" there="" to="" were="">
prevalences of the cestodes in both bird species (P>0.05). It is recommended that more studies be carried out on the parasitic fauna of S. senegalensis and C. livia domestica for a longer period of time, spread over at least two years to get a clearer picture of seasonal parasite infestation. The market or home cages of the domestic pigeons should be cleaned routinely to minimize reinfestation by ectoparasites and helminths.


Birds are widely distributed worldwide and are found in all the seven continents. They live and breed in terrestrial habitats (Newton, 2003). It is believed that the highest bird diversity occurs in the tropical regions of the world. It was also earlier thought that high diversity was as a result of higher speciation rates in the tropics (Serle et al., 1977). Birds are one of the largest source of animal protein eaten by humans (Oladele et al., 2012). Nineteen species of Doves and pigeons (Family: Columbidae), were identified in Nigeria, of which fifteen occur in the Northern Guinea Savannah (Elgood et al., 1994).

The Laughing dove, Streptopelia senegalensis is distinguished from all other doves by the presence of a black spotted reddish fore neck, head is vinous, the mantle brown, the rump dark-grey and the underparts are vinous, becoming white on the belly (Serle et al., 1977). It is called the Laughing dove due to its distinctive coo vocalization that is reminiscent of human laughter.

This species is semi-tame and is abundant in villages and towns, spending much of its time on the ground, feeding on fallen grains or seeds (Adang et al., 2008). According to Oniye et al. (2001), doves are hunted and eaten in Nigeria but recently the intensity has increased probably due to the harsh economic situation, coupled with increased demand for protein. Its wide acceptability as a cheap substitute to other animal-protein sources might explain why roasted Laughing dove is sold at ‘’suya’’ or barbecue spots in Zaria and other urban centres in northern Nigeria.

Domestic pigeons, Columba livia domestica are ubiquitous and associated with humans in many places around the world. These pigeons often occupy the premises of people

and contaminate surroundings with their droppings (Sivajothi and Sudhakara, 2015). They are used by humans as food, experimental animals, pets, and as cultural and religious symbols (Serle et al., 1977). Domestic pigeons do not migrate but if taken far away and released, they return to their nest from long distances, due to their good homing ability.

Birds can be parasitized by a wide variety of ectoparsasites such as lice, ticks, fleas, bugs; and helminths such as cestodes, nematodes and trematodes (Sivajothi and Sudhakara, 2015). According to Khater (1993), helminths are said to be the major cause of ill-health and poor performance in birds.

Pigeons can carry many parasites and pathogens to different flocks, thereby constituting a major source of infection and transmission of diseases (Marques et al., 2007 and Opara et al., 2012). They can also serve as a source for different zoonotic diseases (Soulsby, 1982). Parasitic infestations in pigeons and doves can be affected by food supply, geographic location, climatic conditions and the availability of intermediate hosts (Sivajothi and Sudhakara, 2015).

Columbids feed mainly on seeds, fruits or other food items small enough for them to swallow whole; they also supplement their diet with insects, slugs, maggots, snails and earthworms (Adang, 1999). These food items have been implicated as sources of helminth infestation of birds (Soulsby, 1982). For example, ants in the orders Pheidole and Tetramorium were reported to serve as intermediate hosts in the transmission of Raillietina species (Bolton, 1973 as cited by Adang et al., 2009b), while many larvae and adults of stored grain insect pests such as Tenebrio and Tribolium species, have been implicated as intermediate hosts of Hymenolepis species. (Chang, 1973, Allen, 2014). It is therefore safe to assume that birds may acquire helminth infestations from 
their diets particularly as the diets of birds according to Malhotra and Capoor (1980) have been known to a greater extent to determine their parasitic fauna.

Nematodes can migrate from the intestine to the liver, trachea and lungs and back to the intestine to develop (Michel, 1974). While in these tissues, the parasites do not only cause intestinal obstruction, they also cause severe haemorrhagic enteritis, and consequently reduced egg production (Michel, 1974, Natala et al., 2009). Domestication and intensive rearing of pigeons have increased the awareness of clinical diseases and mortality from heavy infestation with endoparasites (Schock and Cooper 1978, Natala et al., 2009).

1.1 Statement of the Research Problem

In Nigeria, investigations on the parasites of columbids are scanty compared to the large volumes of information available on the parasites of other birds such as chicken, guinea fowl, turkey and duck (Abdu et al., 2002). Laughing Doves have potentials for domestication (Haruna et al., 1997). Domestic pigeons and Laughing doves are among the largest sources of animal protein eaten by people in Zaria, therefore there is need for extensive study on their ectoparasite and helminths for their management and documentation.

1.2 Justification

This study will provide comparative information on the prevalence, and species composition of ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths of Streptopelia senegalensis (Laughing doves) and Columba livia domestica (Domestic pigeons) in Zaria, Nigeria.

In addition, information on the prevalence, composition of ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths species found will provide further insight into the development of possible control measures, which may help in enhancing the survival of the birds and complement efforts towards public enlightenment in Zaria, Nigeria for conservation.

Wild and domestic birds undoubtedly contribute immensely to the daily supply of protein consumed in Zaria and other urban centers in northern Nigeria. Therefore, knowledge of their ectoparasites and helminths is necessary for the management of the domesticated ones (Basit et al., 2006).

1.3 Aim

The aim of this study was to carry out a comparative study on the occurrence of ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths of Laughing doves and Domestic pigeons around Zaria.

1.4 Objectives

The specific objective of the study are:

To investigate the prevalence of ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths of Streptopelia senegalensis and Columba livia domestica in Zaria.

To determine the species composition of ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths of S. senegalensis and C. livia domestica in Zaria, Nigeria.

To determine the seasonal occurrence and variation of ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths of Streptopelia senegalensis and Columba livia domestica.

IV. To evaluate the association between the sex of birds and prevalence of infestation.

V. To compare the prevalence and species composition of ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths of Streptopelia senegalensis and Columba livia domestica.

1.5 Hypotheses

I. Ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths do not infect Streptopelia senegalensis and Columba livia domestica in Zaria.

II. The ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths of Streptopelia senegalensis and C. livia domestica are not assorted.

III. The ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths of Streptopelia senegalensis and Columba livia domestica do not show seasonality.

IV.  The prevalence of ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths  in  Streptopelia senegalensis and Columba livia domestica is not associated with the sex of the birds.

V. Prevalence and species composition of ectoparasites and gastro-intestinal helminths between Streptopelia senegalensis and Columba livia domestica do not vary significantly.

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