Helminthiasis is considered an important problem of wild birds and the status of gastro-intestinal helminths of the Red-eyed dove was unknown. Fifty-one (51) Streptopelia semitorquata were examined for helminths to provide information on their occurrence, prevalence, and species composition in the Zaria area of Kaduna State, Nigeria, between January 2012 and February 2013. The birds were humanely killed and dissected to expose the gastro-intestinal tract. Helminths were recovered and identified. Of these, 27 (52.94%) were infested with one or more of the five species of helminths, comprising only cestodes. These were Raillietina species 1 (40.7%), Aporina species (33.3%), Raillietina species 2 (7.4%), Raillietina species 3 (3.7%) and Fimbriaria species (7.4%). Single infestations were more common (37.25%) than double (11.76%) and triple infestations (3.92%). The mean intensities were 2.4±0.4 for Raillietina species 1, 1.9±0.3 for Aporina species, 1.5±0.5 for Raillietina species 2 and 1.0±0.0 for each of Raillietina species 3 and Fimbriaria species. There were no significant differences (> 0.05) in the mean intensities of infestation by the different cestodes in male and female birds. Infestation was significantly higher during the wet than in the dry season (< 0.05). Raillietina species 3 and Fimbriaria species are reported for the first time in S. semitorquata from Zaria. The helminths of Streptopelia semitorquata should be further investigated over a longer period of time; comparative studies of S. semitorquata and other columbids should be carried out and more efficient techniques of trapping S. semitorquata should be developed.


The Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata is widely distributed in Africa south of the Sahara. It is a common, if not abundant, species in most habitats other than deserts (BirdLife International, 2006). It has adapted very well to the activities of humans, generally preferring woodland, especially alien tree plantations with pines (Hockey et al., 2005). Its flight is quick, with regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of the wings which are characteristic of pigeons in general (BirdLife International, 2011).

Streptopelia semitorquata is a large, stocky pigeon, typically 34cm long. Its back, wings and tail are pale brown. When flying, it shows blackish flight feathers. The head and underparts are dark pinkish, shading to pale grey on the face. It has a black hind neck patch edged with white. The legs and a patch of bare skin around the eye are red. The call is a loud doo-doo-du-du. Males and females are similar, but juveniles are duller in colour than adults, and the body feathers are scalloped (BirdLife International, 2011).

This species of dove eats a wide range of seeds, as well as flowers, nuts, fruit and rarely insects. It forages on the ground, frequently under trees (Hockey et al., 2005). It is frequently found in Zaria, Yankari and Hadejia woodlands (World Bird The habit of the bird and its dependence on human activities for food predisposes it to being easily trapped or killed, as it is widely sold or traded in many Nigerian markets to augment income (Rowan, 1983). Streptopelia semitorquata is evaluated as least concern because it has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the threshold for vulnerable under the range size criterion (BirdLife International, 2011). Over 20 species of pigeons and doves are cosmopolitan which have long been the subjects of intense ornithological and parasitological study (Akinpelu, 2008).

The first human impression about doves was that of a symbol of peace, love and fertility (Klingerman, 1978). In Nigeria, doves have been hunted and eaten but recently the intensity has increased, probably due to harsh economic situation coupled with increased demand for protein (Oniye et al., 2000). The demand for the Red-eyed dove is of late on the increase as observed in suya joints‘ in Zaria and many urban settlements in northern Nigeria.

Helminths are said to be the major cause of ill-health and poor performance in birds (Khater, 1993). Avian cestodiasis constitutes one of the most common helminths causing serious damage among wild birds. It leads to loss of body weight, enteritis and death (Calneck et al., 1997).

A considerable number of arthropods and snails have been implicated as intermediate hosts of helminths of wild birds (Soulsby, 1982). In heavy infections, helminths are known to cause morbidity and mortality in wild birds (Owen, 1972). Among the helminths of birds, nematodes and cestodes constitute the most important group (Nfor et al., 1999; Ayeni et al., 1983). Ascaridia galli has been incriminated as the most common and most important parasite of poultry (Hodasi, 1978; Pam et al., 2006; Luka and Ndams, 2007). The cestodes of significant importance are Raillietina and Hymenolepis (Oniye et al., 2000; Luka and Ndams, 2007). Helminths are known to compete
with the infected hosts for nutrients, lowering their productivity and in severe cases causing death by blocking the gastro-intestinal tract, especially when the worm burden is high (Soulsby, 1982). Helminth infections may have particularly deleterious or debilitating effects on birds, causing growth retardation, interfering with healthy development, and making older birds prone to secondary infections (Cheng, 1973). Unlike the well-documented helminths of other Nigerian domestic birds such as the domestic pigeon, chicken and guinea fowl, there is little or no published information on helminths of the Red-eyed dove in Nigeria.

1.1 Statement of Research Problem

The Red-eyed dove Streptopelia semitorquata constitutes a large population in Zaria (Fry, 1965; Del Hoyo, 1997; Adang, 2012) but the status of its gastro-intestinal helminths is unknown. Literature search indicates that there appear to be no earlier studies conducted on the gastro-intestinal helminths of the Red-eyed dove in northern Nigeria.

Helminthiasis is considered an important problem of wild birds (Jansen and Pandey, 1989; Abebe et al., 1997). Information on the factors influencing helminth infestation of the birds is lacking.

Little attention is usually paid to diseases of wild animals because of the assumption that they are hardier than their domestic counterparts (Khater, 1993).

1.2 Justification

Wild birds undoubtedly contribute immensely to the daily supply of protein consumed worldwide (Basit et al., 2006, Shehu et al., 2009). Recent studies have shown the prevalence of helminth infestation of wild birds to be high (Adang, 2009).

Since helminthiasis is a threat to wild birds, an understanding of the factors causing these diseases, coupled with a thorough knowledge of the nature of their etiologic agents is of great significance in understanding the ecological niches of the birds.

In addition, information on the variety and composition of helminth species found will provide further insight into their diversity in an ecological habitat.

This research will also provide baseline data on the gastro-intestinal helminths of the Red-eyed dove.

1.3 Aim

The aim of this research is to establish the occurrence, prevalence and species composition of helminths in the gut of Streptopelia semitorquata in the Zaria area of Kaduna State, Nigeria.

1.4 Objectives

The objectives are to determine the:
i. prevalence of gastro-intestinal helminths of the Red-eyed dove;

ii. intensity of infestation and species composition of the gastro-intestinal helminths;

iii. relationship between intensity of infestation and the sex of host; and

iv. seasonal infestation by the helminths.

1.5 Hypotheses

1. The Red-eyed dove is not infested by gastro-intestinal helminths.

2. The intensity of infestation and species composition of the gastro-intestinal helminths are not remarkable.

3. There is no significant difference between the prevalence of infestation of male and female birds.

4. There is no significant relationship between seasonal infestation by the helminth.

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