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Understanding relationships between infection and wildlife movement patterns is important for predicting pathogen spread, especially for multispecies pathogens and those that can spread to humans and domestic animals, such as avian influenza viruses (AIVs). Although infection with low pathogenic AIVs is generally considered asymptomatic in wild birds, prior work has shown that influenza-infected birds occasionally delay migration and/or reduce local movements relative to their uninfected counterparts. However, most observational research to date has focused on a few species in northern Europe; given that influenza viruses are widespread globally and outbreaks of highly pathogenic strains are increasingly common, it is important to explore influenza–movement relationships across more species and regions. Here, we used telemetry data to investigate relationships between influenza infection and movement behavior in 165 individuals from four species of North American waterfowl that overwinter in California, USA. We studied both large-scale migratory and local overwintering movements and found that relationships between influenza infection and movement patterns varied among species. Northern pintails (Anas acuta) with antibodies to avian influenza, indicating prior infection, made migratory stopovers that averaged 12 days longer than those with no influenza antibodies. In contrast, greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) with antibodies to avian influenza made migratory stopovers that averaged 15 days shorter than those with no antibodies. Canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria) that were actively infected with influenza upon capture in the winter delayed spring migration by an average of 28 days relative to birds that were uninfected at the time of capture. At the local scale, northern pintails and canvasbacks that were actively infected with influenza used areas that were 7.6 and 4.9 times smaller than those of uninfected ducks, respectively, during the period of presumed active influenza infection. We found no evidence for an influence of active influenza infection on local movements of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). These results suggest that avian influenza can influence waterfowl movements and illustrate that the relationships between avian influenza infection and wild bird movements are context- and species-dependent. More generally, understanding and predicting the spread of multihost pathogens requires studying multiple taxa across space and time.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


animal movement, avian influenza, infectious disease, migration, space use, waterfowl

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Moss Landing Marine Laboratories