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- PublicationA review of Ireland's waterbirds, with emphasis on wintering migrants and reference to H5N1 avian influenzaIreland is characterised by its diversity and large abundance of wetlands, making it attractive to a wide variety of waterbirds throughout the year. This paper presents an overview of Ireland's waterbirds, including ecological factors relevant to the potential introduction, maintenance, transmission and spread of infectious agents, including the H5N1 avian influenza virus, in Ireland. Particular emphasis is placed on five groups of wintering migrants (dabbling and sieving wildfowl, grazing wildfowl, diving wildfowl, waders and gulls), noting that the H5N1 avian influenza virus has mainly been isolated from this subset of waterbirds. Ireland's wetlands are visited during the spring and summer months by hundreds of thousands of waterbirds which come to breed, predominantly from southern latitudes, and during the autumn and winter by waterbirds which come from a variety of origins (predominantly northern latitudes), and which are widely distributed and often congregate in mixed-species flocks. The distribution, feeding habits and social interactions of the five groups of wintering migrants are considered in detail. Throughout Ireland, there is interaction between different waterbird populations (breeding migrants, the wintering migrants and resident waterbird populations). There is also a regular and complex pattern of movement between feeding and roosting areas, and between wetlands and farmland. These interactions are likely to facilitate the rapid transmission and spread of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, if it were present in Ireland.
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