Does the roosting behavior of birds affect transmission dynamics of West Nile virus?
The potential role of many urban passerine birds in the transmission of West Nile virus (WNV) is well-documented by studies on host competency, seroprevalence in wild birds, and identification of vector blood meal source. In contrast, the impact of bird behavior on transmission dynamics is largely unexplored. Bird roosting (perching) behavior may be a critical component regulating WNV transmission because of the crepuscular/nocturnal feeding behavior of Culex mosquitoes, the primary vectors of WNV. We used radio telemetry to determine the roosting behavior of American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and northern cardinals (Cardinalus cardinalus). On average, healthy crows moved slightly shorter distances between roosts than viremic crows, 1,038.3 meters versus 1,255.5 meters, while cardinals only moved 54.7 meters. Given the average movements of crows and cardinals between roosts, crows, which are viremic for five days, could spread the virus throughout a mean +/- SE area of 20.84 +/- 0.