Since 1999, repeated epidemics of the West Nile Virus in North America have infected more than one million people and killed more than 800. Understanding the feeding behavior of the mosquitoes that carry this disease and their preferences is the first step to controlling the West Nile Virus. Scientists from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, in conjunction with the Consortium of Conservation Medicine, are studying mosquitoes, and their avian victims, in urban and suburban areas in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Recently they discovered that in late spring and early summer, more than half of the birds bitten by mosquitoes were American robins, even though robins make up only four percent of the bird population. Once the robins finish nesting in late summer and disperse from their breeding areas, the mosquitoes turn to their second favorite blood source: humans.