Dead birds found in the wild should not be handled, say government

Puffins have been badly affected by the recent outbreak of bird flu.
Photo: Shutterstock/Krasula

Fly tyers are always keen to glean materials from natural sources, but at the moment that comes with a serious warning, due to current levels of bird flu circulating in the wild bird population.

A high number of dead birds are being found at present, due to a highly virulent avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1, which is particularly prevalent in Scotland, but there are also 109 cases recorded in England, with much of the area at high risk, plus some cases in Wales and Northern Ireland.

There is a threat of transfer of the disease to humans, so dead birds – or, indeed, feathers – must not be touched. The disease is a major threat to poultry and other captive birds. The Guardian reported in April that nearly 24 million poultry birds had died in USA within two months of the disease being identified there. Migratory wild ducks and geese are the main carriers, but are not so badly affected by the disease. Scottish government guidelines on encountering dead birds is currently:

• Do not pick up or touch dead or sick wild birds
• Keep pets/dogs away from any dead or sick birds
• Don’t feed wild waterfowl
• Don’t touch wild bird feathers or surfaces contaminated with droppings

Aberdeenshire is currently suffering major losses, particularly of sea birds on the coast. Aberdeenshire Council is installing warning signs at known locations where Avian Influenza has been reported and teams will be monitoring these areas.
However, due to limited resources and a lengthy coastline, the Council is calling on the public to help identify potential cases, and reporting any dead birds to Defra’s national helpline on 03459 335577.

Aberdeenshire Council aims to have any reported cases of deceased birds removed as quickly as possible by fully-trained staff. Members of the public who come groups of ten or more dead birds are asked to call its dedicated phone-line: 01467 537444.

If you find a live but sick bird in Scotland, call the SSPCA: 03000 999999.

Cases in Scotland

Avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has also been confirmed at:

• near Collieston, Aberdeenshire
• near Strichen, Aberdeenshire
• in the Angus constituency
• near Gretna, Dumfriesshire, Dumfries and Galloway
• near Annan, Dumfriesshire, Dumfries and Galloway
• near Moffat, Dumfriesshire, Dumfries and Galloway
• near Gretna, Dumfriesshire, Dumfries and Galloway
• near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire
• on the Island of Whalsay, Shetland Islands
• near Birsay, Orkney Islands
• near Beith, North Ayrshire

Cases in Wales

• near Chirk, Wrexham
• near Gaerwen, Isle of Anglesey
• near Crickhowell, Powys
• near Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Powys
• near Welshpool, Montgomeryshire, Powys

Cases in Northern Ireland

• in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone
• in Broughshane, County Antrim
• in Armagh, County Armagh
• in Coagh, County Tyrone
• in Ballinderry, County Londonderry
• in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh – temporary control zones in place pending further testing

Dead birds should be left alone, and reported to: DEFRA’s national helpline: 03459 335577.