Pathogens utilize type III secretion systems to deliver effector proteins, which facilitate bacterial infections. The Escherichia coli type III secretion system 2 (ETT2) which plays a crucial role in bacterial virulence, is present in the majority of E. coli strains, although ETT2 has undergone widespread mutational attrition. We investigated the distribution and characteristics of ETT2 in avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC) isolates and identified five different ETT2 isoforms, including intact ETT2, in 57·6% (141/245) of the isolates. The ETT2 locus was present in the predominant APEC serotypes O78, O2 and O1. All of the ETT2 loci in the serotype O78 isolates were degenerate, whereas an intact ETT2 locus was mostly present in O1 and O2 serotype strains, which belong to phylogenetic groups B2 and D, respectively. Interestingly, a putative second type III secretion-associated locus (eip locus) was present only in the isolates with an intact ETT2. Moreover, ETT2 was more widely distributed in APEC isolates and exhibited more isoforms compared to ETT2 in human extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli, suggesting that APEC might be a potential risk to human health. However, there was no distinct correlation between ETT2 and other virulence factors in APEC.