Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Since its first known appearance in North America in Queens, New York in 1999, West Nile Virus (WNV) has spread westerly across the United States and caused many human and avian deaths. Previous protocols testing for WNV RNA in birds were only effective for post-mortem specimens; therefore, I have developed a useable protocol for live birds. Nasopharyngeal epithelial and molting feather samples were tested from 255 individuals of 41 species, representing 16 avian families, captured at a long term bird-banding station in western Kansas. By using reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to check for prevalence, I identified 12 individuals (4.7%) as testing positively for WNV. Eight of the positively tested samples were from long-distance migrants: orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata) (n = 3), red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus) (n = 1), Wilson's warbler (Wilsonia pusilla) (n = 2), Nashville warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla) (n = 1), and Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) (n = 1). The four positively tested short-distance migrants were house wren (Troglodytes aedon) (n= 2), American robin (Turdus migratorius) (n =1), and dark-eyed j unco (Junco hyemalis) (n = 1). Unexpectedly, WNV was detected in nasopharyngeal epithelial sarnples, but not in molting feathers from the same Ovenbird. In two cases, however, molting feather samples tested positive for WNV, while the nasopharyngeal epithelial sample indicated a negative for the same individual. One of the twelve individuals (house wren) tested positive for WNV in both molting feather and nasopharyngeal epithelial samples taken. My results show that effective WNV testing is possible in live birds and indicate reservoirs exist in migrant species.


Greg Farley

Date of Award

Spring 2006

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 2006 Anthony Thomas


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