The collectins, lung surfactant proteins A and D (SP-A and SP-D), contribute to innate host defense against influenza A virus (IAV) in vivo. Although collectins bind to the viral hemagglutinin (HA) and inhibit early stages of viral infection in vitro, they also bind to the neuraminidase (NA) and inhibit NA activity. We used a variety of NA functional assays, viral strains and recombinant (mutant or wild type) collectins to characterize the mechanism of NA inhibition. NA inhibition by SP-D correlates with binding of its carbohydrate recognition domain (CRD) to oligomannose oligosaccharides on the viral hemagglutinin (HA). The effects of SP-D are additive with oseltamivir, consistent with differences in mechanism of action. NA inhibition was observed using fetuin or MDCK cells as a substrate, but not in assays using a soluble sialic acid analogue. Collectin multimerization and CRD binding properties are key determinants for NA inhibition. SP-D had greater NA inhibitory activity than mannose-binding lectin, which in turn had greater activity than SP-A. The markedly greater NA inhibitory activity of SP-D compared to SP-A may partly account for the finding that deletion of the SP-D gene in mice has a greater effect on viral replication in vivo.