Institute for Poultry Diseases, Free University of Berlin, Koenigsweg 63, 14163 Berlin, Germany.
Tracheal and cloacal swabs as well as blood samples from 408 feral urban (Columba livia forma domestica) and 170 free-ranging wood pigeons (Columba palumbus) in Germany were tested for infection with avian influenza viruses (AIVs). Neither influenza A virus was isolated in the swab samples nor influenza A virus RNA detected using real-time reverse transcriptase-PCR (RT-qPCR). In three urban feral pigeons, avian paramyxovirus (APMV) serotype 1 was isolated. Two of 123 serum samples from hunted free-ranging wood pigeons contained specific antibodies against influenza A virus but not against the subtypes H5 and H7. In conclusion, our study indicates that even after the occurrence of zoonotic highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) subtype H5N1 in the area of investigation in Germany, pigeons do not play a major part in the transmission of influenza viruses. The risk of AIV infection for humans from urban and free-ranging wood pigeons is, if at all, of minimal importance.