Although influenza A viruses have been isolated from numerous shorebird species (Family: Scolopacidae) worldwide, our understanding of natural history of these viruses in this diverse group is incomplete. Gaining this information can be complicated by sampling difficulties related to live capture, the need for large sample sizes related to a potentially low prevalence of infection, and the need to maintain flexibility in diagnostic approaches related to varied capabilities and resources. To provide information relevant to improving sampling and testing of shorebirds for influenza A viruses, we retrospectively evaluated a combined data set from Delaware Bay, USA, collected from 2000 to 2009. Our results indicate that prevalence trends and subtype diversity can be effectively determined by either direct sampling of birds or indirect sampling of feces; however, the extent of detected subtype diversity is a function of the number of viruses recovered during that year. Even in cases where a large number of viruses are identified, an underestimate of true subtype diversity is likely. Influenza A virus isolation from Ruddy Turnstones can be enhanced by testing both cloacal and tracheal samples, and matrix real-time PCR can be used as an effective screening tool. Serologic testing to target species of interest also has application to shorebird surveillance. Overall, all of the sampling and diagnostic approaches have utility as applied to shorebird surveillance, but all are associated with inherent biases that need to be considered when comparing results from independent studies.

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