Wild birds are the major reservoir hosts for influenza A viruses (AIVs) and have been implicated in the emergence of pandemic events in livestock and human populations. Understanding how AIVs spread within and across continents is therefore critical to the development of successful strategies to manage and reduce the impact of influenza outbreaks. In North America many bird species undergo seasonal migratory movements along a North-South axis, thereby fostering opportunities for viruses to spread over long distances. However, the role played by such avian flyways in shaping the genetic structure of AIV populations has proven controversial. To assess the relative contribution of bird migration along flyways to the genetic structure of AIV we performed a large-scale phylogeographic study of viruses sampled in the USA and Canada, involving the analysis of 3805 to 4505 sequences from 36 to 38 geographic localities depending on the gene data set. To assist this we developed a maximum likelihood-based genetic algorithm to explore a wide range of complex spatial models, thereby depicting a more complete picture of the migration network than previous studies. Based on phylogenies estimated from nucleotide data sets, our results show that AIV migration rates within flyways are significantly higher than those between flyways, indicating that the migratory patterns of birds play a key role in pathogen dispersal. These findings provide valuable insights into the evolution, maintenance and transmission of AIVs, in turn allowing the development of improved programs for surveillance and risk assessment.