The effect of an indirect anthelmintic treatment on parasites and breeding success of free-living pheasants Phasianus colchicus.
In Great Britain free-living common pheasants Phasianus colchicus are often managed at high densities owing to their popularity as a quarry species. They are prone to infection by a range of parasite species including Heterakis gallinarum, Capillaria spp. and Syngamus trachea. In 1995 the efficacy of an indirect anthelmintic technique for controlling parasitic worm burdens of pheasants was determined in a pilot study on a shooting estate in the south of England. Between 2000 and 2003 a large-scale field experiment was conducted on nine estates in eastern England to determine the effect of the technique on parasite burden and pheasant breeding success. In the absence of anthelmintic treatment worm burdens increased rapidly through March and April, whereas birds given anthelmintic-treated grain had lower worm burdens during the same period. The breeding success of pheasants was significantly higher on plots provided with anthelmintic treatment, although no long-term increases in population densities were observed. The burdens of the most common parasite H. Gallinarum were significantly lower in pheasants from treatment plots six weeks after the anthelmintic treatment had ceased, but spring treatment did not influence parasite burden in the following winter.