The hummingbird family (Trochilidae) is species rich; however the effects of infectious agents and diseases on these birds have received little attention. We compiled and summarized published findings describing disease conditions in hummingbirds in order to provide a comprehensive overview of existing data to assist management and conservation of captive and free-ranging hummingbird populations. Few pathogens and disease syndromes have been described. There is a lack of information on clinical signs, pathology and epidemiology and their variation across species for most disease syndromes. Consequently, there is not enough information to determine the impact of diseases in hummingbird populations, including those of conservation concern. Several physiological, behavioral and ecological characteristics render hummingbirds as an interesting species for the study of wildlife disease ecology. Additionally, feeding ecology with prodigious diets of insects and nectar support consideration as "environmental samplers"; hummingbirds will serve as potential sentinels for assessing the environmental impacts of pollutants and pesticides. We conclude that further studies are needed to better understand the role of diseases in hummingbird fitness and survival. In this sense, hummingbird health monitoring programs are fundamental to securing scientific information on normal and abnormal health parameters. © 2013 Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.
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