The effects of avian malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium on their hosts are insufficiently understood. This is particularly true for malarial co-infections, which predominant in many bird populations. We investigated effects of primary co-infection of Plasmodium relictum (lineage SGS1) and Plasmodium ashfordi (GRW2) on experimentally infected naive juveniles of siskin Spin us spinus, crossbill Loxia curvirostra and starling Sturnus vulgaris. All siskins and crossbills were susceptible but starlings resistant to both these infections. A general pattern of the co-infections was that heavy parasitemia (over 35% during peaks) of both parasites developed in both susceptible host species. There were no significant effects of the co-infections on mean body mass of the majority of infected birds. Mean haematocrit value decreased approximately 1.5 and 3 times in siskins and crossbills at the peak of parasitemia, respectively. Mortality was recorded among infected crossbills. We conclude that co-infections of P. relictum and P. ashfordi are highly virulent and act synergetically during primary infections in some but not all passerine birds. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.