Although low pathogenicity avian influenza viruses (LPAIV) are detected in shorebirds at Delaware Bay annually, little is known about affected species habitat preferences or the movement patterns that might influence virus transmission and spread. During the 5-wk spring migration stopover period during 2007–2008, we conducted a radiotelemetry study of often-infected ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpres morinella; n = 60) and rarely infected sanderlings (Calidris alba; n = 20) to identify locations and habitats important to these species (during daytime and nighttime), determine the extent of overlap with other AIV reservoir species or poultry production areas, reveal possible movements of AIV around the Bay, and assess whether long-distance movement of AIV is likely after shorebird departure. Ruddy turnstones and sanderlings both fed on Bay beaches during the daytime. However, sanderlings used remote sandy points and islands during the nighttime while ruddy turnstones primarily used salt marsh harboring waterfowl and gull breeding colonies, suggesting that this environment supports AIV circulation. Shorebird locations were farther from agricultural land and poultry operations than were random locations, suggesting selection away from poultry. Further, there was no areal overlap between shorebird home ranges and poultry production areas. Only 37% (22/60) of ruddy turnstones crossed into Delaware from capture sites in New Jersey, suggesting partial site fidelity and AIV gene pool separation between the states. Ruddy turnstones departed en masse around June 1 when AIV prevalence was low or declining, suggesting that a limited number of birds could disperse AIV onto the breeding grounds. This study provides needed insight into AIV and migratory host ecology, and results can inform both domestic animal AIV prevention and shorebird conservation efforts.
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Vol. 60 • No. 1s