In the Plains states of the central United States, research suggests that the prevalence of West Nile virus (WNV) disease in humans is higher in agricultural areas than in nonagricultural areas. In contrast, there is limited information about WNV exposure in birds, the primary amplifying host of WNV, in agriculturally dominated landscapes. We evaluated whether exposure to WNV in peridomestic birds sampled in central Iowa varied with the proportion of land use devoted to agriculture. Over the summers of 2009 and 2010, we captured birds in sites comprising gradients of agricultural, urban, and natural land uses, and tested their sera for antibodies to WNV. Overall, WNV antibody prevalence was low (2.3%). Our results suggest that agricultural land use had minimal influence on WNV exposure in birds. We conclude that birds are not likely to be useful indicators of WNV activity in agricultural areas in the Plains states despite human risk being highest in those areas. Antibody prevalence for WNV, however, was higher in American Robins, Mourning Doves, and Northern Cardinals than in other species, making these species potentially useful for monitoring WNV activity in the US Plains states.
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Vol. 49 • No. 4