Wild aquatic birds are recognized as the natural reservoir of avian influenza A viruses (AIV), but across high and low pathogenic AIV strains, scientists have yet to rigorously identify most competent hosts for the various subtypes. We examined 11,870 GenBank records to provide a baseline inventory and insight into patterns of global AIV subtype diversity and richness. Further, we conducted an extensive literature review and communicated directly with scientists to accumulate data from 50 non-overlapping studies and over 250,000 birds to assess the status of historic sampling effort. We then built virus subtype sample-based accumulation curves to better estimate sample size targets that capture a specific percentage of virus subtype richness at seven sampling locations. Our study identifies a sampling methodology that will detect an estimated 75% of circulating virus subtypes from a targeted bird population and outlines future surveillance and research priorities that are needed to explore the influence of host and virus biodiversity on emergence and transmission.