Monitoring of free-ranging and captive Psittacula populations in Western Europe for avian bornaviruses, circoviruses and polyomaviruses.
Avian pathogens such as bornaviruses, circoviruses and polyomaviruses are widely distributed in captive collections of psittacine birds worldwide and can cause fatal diseases. In contrast, only little is known about their presence in free-ranging psittacines and their impact on these populations. Rose-ringed parakeets (Psittacula krameri) and Alexandrine parakeets (Psittacula eupatria) are non-native to Europe, but have established stable populations in parts of Western Europe. From 2012-2017, we surveyed free-ranging populations in Germany and France as well as captive Psittacula individuals from Germany and Spain for avian bornavirus, circovirus and polyomavirus infections. Samples from two out of 469 tested free-ranging birds (0.4%; 95% confidence interval [CI-95]: 0.1-1.5%) were positive for beak and feather disease virus (BeFDV), whereas avian bornaviruses and polyomaviruses were not detected in the free-ranging populations. In contrast, avian bornaviruses and polyomaviruses, but not circoviruses were detected in captive populations. Parrot bornavirus 4 (PaBV-4) infection was detected by RT-PCR in four out of 210 captive parakeets (1.9%; CI-95: 0.7-4.8%) from four different holdings in Germany and Spain and confirmed by detection of bornavirus-reactive antibodies in two of these birds. Three out of 160 tested birds (1.9%; CI-95: 0.5-5.4%) possessed serum antibodies directed against budgerigar fledgling disease virus (BuFDV). PaBV-4 and BuFDV were also detected in several psittacines of a mixed holding in Germany, which had been in contact with free-ranging parakeets. Our results demonstrate that Psittacula parakeets are susceptible to common psittacine pathogens and their populations in Western Europe are exposed to these viruses. Nevertheless, the prevalence of avian bornaviruses, circoviruses and polyomaviruses in those populations is very low. RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS Psittacula parakeets are susceptible to bornavirus, circovirus and polyomavirus infection. Introduced Psittacula populations in Europe have been exposed to these viruses. Nevertheless, they may be absent or present at only low levels in free-ranging Psittacula populations. Free-ranging populations in Europe pose a minor threat of transmitting these viruses to captive Psittaciformes.