Migrating waterfowl are implicated in the global spread of influenza A viruses (IAVs), and mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) are considered a particularly important IAV reservoir. Prevalence of IAV infection in waterfowl peaks during autumn pre-migration staging and then declines as birds reach wintering areas. Migration is energetically costly and birds often experience declines in body condition that may suppress immune function. We assessed how body condition affects susceptibility to infection, viral shedding and antibody production in wild-caught and captive-bred juvenile mallards challenged with low pathogenic avian influenza virus (LPAIV) H5N9. Wild mallards (n = 30) were separated into three experimental groups; each manipulated through food availability to a different condition level (-20%, -10%, and normal ??5% original body condition), and captive-bred mallards (n = 10) were maintained at normal condition. We found that wild mallards in normal condition were more susceptible to LPAIV infection, shed higher peak viral loads and shed viral RNA more frequently compared to birds in poor condition. Antibody production did not differ according to condition. We found that wild mallards did not differ from captive-bred mallards in viral intensity and duration of infection, but they did exhibit lower antibody titers and greater variation in viral load. Our findings suggest that reduced body condition negatively influences waterfowl host competence to LPAIV infection. This observation is contradictory to the recently proposed condition-dependent hypothesis, according to which birds in reduced condition would be more susceptible to IAV infection. The mechanisms responsible for reducing host competency among birds in poor condition remain unknown. Our research indicates body condition may influence the maintenance and spread of LPAIV by migrating waterfowl. ?? 2011 Arsnoe et al.