Bird flu outbreak
There is a sever 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 not admitting wild birds to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre.
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. We won’t be able to admit them to our care due to the potential risk they could pose to animals in our care. Even a bird not displaying symptoms may have avian influenza, as the incubation period is between two and eight days.
If you call us for help, please be patient as the summer is our busiest time of year. On average we respond to over 230 reports of animals in need every day – but that number is even higher from May through September.
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 have several hundred wild birds on site, plus hundreds of other wild animals.
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 to the centre until the situation improves.
Were we to have a single positive case at the centre, all animals on site could be at risk of being euthanised in line with UK-wide protocols to prevent the spread of avian influenza.
What about the hundreds of birds currently in your care?
We will release birds in our care when they are ready to return to the wild. We’re monitoring the spread of avian influenza, and identifying release sites in locations where it is least prevalent. This is a challenge as there are confirmed cases across the vast majority of Scotland. However, it would be detrimental to the welfare of wild birds to keep them in a wildlife centre when they have been fully rehabilitated and are ready to return to the wild.
Can’t you improve biosecurity measures or isolate wild birds until you can check they don’t have bird flu?
We have stringent biosecurity measures in place already, but the scale and speed of the spread of this year’s outbreak of avian flu means we do not have appropriate facilities to isolate the large number of birds we could expect to admit.
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.