The emergence of several high profile infectious diseases in recent years has focused attention on our need to understand the ecological factors contributing to the spread of infectious diseases. West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne zoonotic disease that was first detected in the United States in 1999. The factors accounting for variation in the prevalence of WNV are poorly understood, but recent ideas suggesting links between high biodiversity and reduced vector-borne disease risk may help account for distribution patterns of this disease. Since wild birds are the primary reservoir hosts for WNV, we tested associations between passerine (Passeriform) bird diversity, non-passerine (all other orders) bird diversity and virus infection rates in mosquitoes and humans to examine the extent to which bird diversity is associated with WNV infection risk. We found that non-passerine species richness (number of non-passerine species) was significantly negatively correlated with both mosquito and human infection rates, whereas there was no significant association between passerine species richness and any measure of infection risk. Our findings suggest that non-passerine diversity may play a role in dampening WNV amplification rates in mosquitoes, minimizing human disease risk.
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