We have examined the specificity of binding of A/NWS/33 hemagglutinin (HA), exploring the effects of fucosylation, changing the Gal-GlcNAc linkage between the second and third sugars, and binding affinity for alpha2,8-linked sialic acid. The HA of A/NWS/33(HA)-Tokyo/67(NA) (NWS-Tok, H1N2) virus binds to 3'-linked sialyllactose with 10-fold higher affinity than 3' sialyllactosamine and 3-fold higher affinity than 6' sialyllactosamine. The P227H mutation in A/NWS/33(P227H)(HA)-A/Memphis/31/98(NA) (NWS-Mem/98, H1N2) results in sevenfold lower affinity for 3' sialyllactose, but binding to 6' sialyllactosamine is unchanged. The apparent switch from 3' to 6' specificity is solely due to a loss of Siaalpha2,3 binding. Fucosylation of the third sugar and changing the linkage between second and third sugars had little effect on binding by NWS-Tok, but marked effects on A/NWS/33(P227H)(HA)-tern/Australia/G70c/75(NA) (NWS-G70c, H1N9) and NWS-Mem/98. NWS-Tok, NWS-G70c, and NWS-Mem/98 bind to alpha2,8-bisialic acid with high affinity. NWS-Mem/98 can also bind to alpha2,8-trisialic acid, but with lower affinity. Together, these data show that alpha2,8-linked sialic acid, fucosylation of the third sugar, and linkage between the second and third sugars could play important roles in allowing efficient virus binding to its host cell. The finding that influenza viruses have the potential to bind to alpha2,8-linked sialic acid is a new influenza virus-receptor interaction pathway.