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Movements of Wild Birds and Emerging Disease Risk from India

A Bar-headed goose fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter ready for release.

The study of the wintering (non-breeding) grounds for waterfowl allows identification of areas where a broad range of species congregate. These sites are associated with a high density of bird species providing conditions that are conducive to the transmission and outbreak of avian influenza virus (AIV). Within India, the lethal AIV subtype, H5N1 has become endemic in poultry, raising questions about the potential for spillover to overwintering bird populations.

Project Details

An international team from the United Nations-FAO, the Indian Ministry of Agriculture, Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, Wetlands International, the Bombay Natural History Society, the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) in Bhopal, the US Geological Survey (Western Ecological Research Center, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, and Alaska Science Center), has been studying the disease ecology of several waterfowl species including Garganey (Anas querquedula), Common Teal (Anas crecca), Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope), Gadwall (Anas strepera), Northern Shovellor (Anas clypeata), Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) and Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea). Our team is also working in cooperation with the University of Wales Bangor to also examine migratory ecology and flight performance of Bar-headed Geese (Anser indicus) with the support of the Max Planck Institute for Migration, Germany and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK. This collaborative effort will shed light on the role of wild birds in the epidemiology of AIV in India.


The objectives of this research were to:

1) capture and mark bar-headed geese and other waterfowl species at wintering sites within India to map their migration routes and respective breeding grounds; and

2) sample the prevalence of AIV and other pathogens in waterfowl species and establish their capacity to act as vectors.

FAO Contact For This Project 
    Scott Newman
    EMPRES Wildlife Unit
    Food & Agriculture Organization, United Nations
    Rome, Italy 00153

USGS Contact For This Project
John Takekawa - Emeritus
(707) 562-2000
San Francisco Bay Estuary Field Station
505 Azuar Drive
Vallejo, CA 94592
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