Wild waterfowl are the reservoir for avian influenza viruses (AIVs), a family of RNA viruses that may cause mild sickness in waterbirds. Emergence of H5N1, a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain, causing severe disease and mortality in wild birds, poultry and humans, had raised concerns about the role of wild birds in possible transmission of the disease. In this review, the link between rice production systems, poultry production systems, and wild bird ecology is examined to assess the extent to which these interactions could contribute towards the persistence and evolution of HPAI H5N1. The rice (Oryza sativa) and poultry production systems in Asia described, and then migration and movements of wild birds discussed. Mixed farming systems in Asia and wild bird movement and migration patterns create opportunities for the persistence of low pathogenic AIVs in these systems. Nonetheless, there is no evidence of long-term persistence of HPAI viruses (including the H5N1 subtype) in the wild. There are still significant gaps in the understanding of how AIVs circulate in rice systems. A better understanding of persistence of AIVs in rice farms, particularly of poultry origins, is essential in limiting exchange of AIVs between mixed-farming systems, poultry and wild birds.