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Research suggests robin is West Nile culprit

HARTFORD, Conn. – The beloved American robin, not the annoying, raucous crow, may be the more potent source for West Nile virus, according to new research.

A DNA analysis of blood taken from the abdomens of 300 mosquitoes trapped in Connecticut over the past three years found that 40 percent fed on the blood of the red-breasted songbird and only 1 percent on crows, said Theodore Andreadis, chief medical entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

“It was quite surprising,” he said. “Robins are right up there and are probably playing a pretty good role.”

His findings have been turned over to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for publication in the agency journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

But Nick Komar, the CDC’s lead bird West Nile researcher, is skeptical of the robin’s newfound dubious distinction. It’s too early to tell, he said.

“I’d be surprised if the American robin would be very important,” said Komar, who had not yet seen Andreadis’ data.

“I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that crows are not important. If this study analyzes mosquitoes where there are lots of robins but no crows, that could be misleading.”