The detection of avian viruses in wild populations has considerable conservation implications. For DNA-based studies, feathers may be a convenient sample type for virus screening and are, therefore, an increasingly common technique. This is despite recent concerns about DNA quality, ethics, and a paucity of data comparing the reliability and sensitivity of feather sampling to other common sample types such as blood. Alternatively, skeletal muscle tissue may offer a convenient sample to collect from dead birds, which may reveal viraemia. Here, we describe a probe-based quantitative real-time PCR for the relative quantification of beak and feather disease virus (BFDV), a pathogen of serious conservation concern for parrots globally. We used this method to test for BFDV in wild crimson rosellas (Platycercus elegans), and compared three different sample types. We detected BFDV in samples from 29 out of 84 individuals (34.5%). However, feather samples provided discordant results concerning virus presence when compared with muscle tissue and blood, and estimates of viral load varied somewhat between different sample types. This study provides evidence for widespread infection of BFDV in wild crimson rosellas, but highlights the importance of sample type when generating and interpreting qualitative and quantitative avian virus data.
- Australian birds
- wildlife management