U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Root, J.J., J.W. Ellis, and S.A. Shriner. 2022. Strength in numbers: Avian influenza A virus transmission to poultry from a flocking passerine. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 69(4):e1153-e1159. doi: 10.1111/tbed.14397


U.S. government work


The effects of flock size of European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) was experimentally manipulated to assess the potential of influenza A virus (IAV; H4N6) transmission from a flocking passerine to bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) through shared food and water resources to mimic starling intrusions into free-range and backyard poultry operations. Of the three starling flock sizes tested (n = 30, n = 20 and n = 10), all successfully transmitted the virus to all or most of the quail in each animal room (6/6, 6/6 and 5/6) by the end of the experimental period, as determined by seroconversion and/or viral RNAshedding. Although starlings have been shown to be inconsistent shedders of IAVs andwhen they do replicate and subsequently shed virus they typically do so at low to moderate levels, this study has provided evidence that relatively small flocks (i.e., 10 or possibly a smaller number) of this species can collectively transmit the virus to a highly susceptible gallinaceous bird species. Future work should assess if starlings can transmit IAVs to additional poultry species commonly found in backyard or free-range settings.