Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) can cause serious disease in human beings. Ruminants are considered to be the main reservoir of human STEC infections. However, STEC have also been isolated from other domestic animals, wild mammals and birds. We describe a cross-sectional study of wild birds in northern England to determine the prevalence of E. coli-containing genes that encode Shiga toxins (stx1 and stx2) and intimin (eae), important virulence determinants of STEC associated with human disease. Multivariable logistic regression analysis identified unique risk factors for the occurrence of each virulence gene in wild bird populations. The results of our study indicate that while wild birds are unlikely to be direct sources of STEC infections, they do represent a potential reservoir of virulence genes. This, coupled with their ability to act as long-distance vectors of STEC, means that wild birds have the potential to influence the spread and evolution of STEC.