Influenza A viruses of the H1N1 subtype have emerged from the avian influenza gene pool in aquatic birds and caused human pandemics at least twice during the past century. Despite this fact, surprisingly little is known about the H1N1 gene pool in the aquatic bird reservoir. A preliminary study showed that an H1N1 virus from a shorebird of the Charadriiformes order was transmitted between animals through the airborne route of infection, whereas an H1N1 virus from a bird of the Anseriformes order was not. Here we show that two of the three H1N1 viruses isolated from Charadriiformes species in 2009 were transmitted between animals through the airborne route of infection, and five H1N1 isolates from Anseriformes species were not. The one H1N1 virus from a Charadriiformes species that failed to transmit through the airborne route was a reassortant possessing multiple internal gene segments from Anseriformes species. The molecular differences between the airborne-transmissible and non-airborne-transmissible H1N1 viruses were multigenic, involving the selection of virus with human-like receptor-binding specificity (alpha 2-6 sialic acid) and multiple differences in the polymerase complex, mainly in the PB2, PB1-F2, and nonstructural genes.