This study describes the characterization of seven H5N1 avian influenza viruses from domestic ducks in Eastern China in 2011. Phylogenetic analysis showed these viruses were closely related to an H5N1 virus circulating in wild birds in Hong Kong. Some characteristics of these viruses were similar to those of an H5N1 strain that circulated in China and Vietnam (2003-2004). The virulence of three isolates was examined in chickens and mice, and they were found to be highly pathogenic in chickens but showed low pathogenicity in mice. These results suggest that continued H5N1 surveillance in poultry should be used as an early warning system for avian influenza outbreaks.