Bird flu outbreak
There is a severe outbreak of avian influenza (commonly known as bird flu) in Scotland.
Wild bird populations have been devastated in parts of the country. Whilst avian influenza has circulated among bird populations on a regular basis for two decades, the current outbreak is the worst Scotland has experienced in terms of transmission and mortality rates. It has spread rapidly and killed tens of thousands of birds.
Due to the current situation, we are only able to admit low-risk species to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre. These are species where there's little to no evidence of bird flu transmission. We will only take in birds which do not have any symptoms of bird flu.
Due to high levels of transmission, we're unable to admit any waterfowl, seabirds or birds of prey to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre.
Admitted birds will be quarantined for ten days, to allow the incubation period for the disease to pass.
Here's all the information you need to know about bird flu, including what to do if you come across a sick or injured bird at the moment.
What do I do if I find a sick bird?
Do not touch or pick up the bird. Call our free animal helpline on 03000 999 999 to report the bird, describe what you see, and we’ll give you advice and potentially send someone to assess the bird and do what we can to help them. If you have touched the bird, wash your hands right away.
Please do not bring birds to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre, or any of our animal rescue and rehoming centres. Even a bird not displaying symptoms may have avian influenza, as the incubation period is between two and eight days.
What do I do if I find a dead bird?
If you find dead wild birds or waterfowl (e.g. swans, ducks) you should report them to Defra’s helpline on 03459 33 55 77. Do not touch or pick up any dead birds you find.
Why can’t you admit wild birds to the National Wildlife Rescue Centre?
The strain of avian influenza infecting bird populations at the moment is highly contagious.
We’ve taken the tough decision to prevent a possible outbreak at the wildlife centre, and that means we can’t admit any wild birds which are high-risk to the centre until the situation improves.
We have significant quarantine and bio-security measures in place to make sure we minimise the chances of any positive bird flu cases at the centre.
Is bird flu a threat to humans?
Bird flu can, in rare cases, infect humans. It is spread by close contact by an infected or dead bird with avian influenza. Please check the NHS website for more information: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bird-flu/
The advice from the UK Health Security Agency is that avian influenza poses a very low risk to the general public’s health.
Can bird flu infect other species?
Reports have emerged in other parts of the world of avian influenza infecting other species, such as seals. We’re in regular contact with key agencies and partners monitoring and investigating this.
Can bird flu be treated?
Sadly, there’s no treatment for bird flu. If we attend to a bird with symptoms of bird flu, we will put them to sleep to end their suffering. Otherwise, they’ll suffer for a period of time before dying.
What are the symptoms?
Birds with the current strain of avian influenza can have swollen heads, dullness, a lack of appetite, respiratory issues and diarrhoea. There can be a wide variation in the severity of the symptoms.
The disease can present suddenly and birds can pass away within hours of first displaying symptoms.
What’s the risk to poultry and captive birds?
Avian influenza is a notifiable animal disease, meaning anyone who keeps poultry or captive birds must report any suspected cases. In Scotland, this means notifying your field service local office at the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The current strain has predominantly impacted wild birds.
As an owner of poultry or captive birds, how can I protect my birds?
Review biosecurity measures and make sure they are robust. There is a legal requirement for all poultry keepers with 50 or more birds to register their premises on the Great Britain Poultry Register, but we would strongly encourage those with a flock of any size to register.
Anyone who is registered will be notified when there’s disease outbreak like bird flu in their local area.