Wild birds, in particular waterfowl, are common reservoirs of low pathogenic avian influenza viruses, and infected individuals could spread the viruses during migrations. We used satellite telemetry to track the spring migration of the mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) that winter in Japan. We studied their migration routes, distribution of stopover and breeding sites, and timing of migration movements. We tracked 23 mallards from four different wintering sites. Nine of the 23 mallards reached presumable breeding sites, where migration terminated. The migration routes of the birds greatly differed not only among the wintering sites but also within the same wintering site, although the general feature of the routes was shared among birds within the same wintering site. The mallards used several stopover sites, and they typically stayed for a long period (about one to four weeks) at a site between migration intervals of two to three days. Stopover sites were located in northeast Japan, the eastern coastline of South Korea and North Korea, and the interior of Far Eastern Russia. Mallards from three different wintering sites used a stopover area near the middle part of the Ussuri river in Russia. The terminal sites, which were presumably also breeding sites, were distributed widely over northeast Asia and Far Eastern Russia. These results suggest that mallards that winter in Japan originate from breeding areas widely distributed across eastern Asia. Mallards could potentially transmit avian influenza viruses between Japan and a broad region of northeastern Asia.
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