Avian influenza (bird flu) is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.
Reporting dead wild birds
You should call the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77) if you find:
- one or more dead bird of prey or owl
- 3 or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese and ducks)
- 5 or more dead birds of any species
Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find. For further information see our advice to the public.
The latest guidance and updates from APHA is available from:
Housing Order from 7th November 2022
A national housing was introduced across England on Monday 7 November making it a legal requirement to house flocks.
Over the last year, the United Kingdom has faced its largest ever outbreak of avian influenza with over 200 cases confirmed since late October 2021. The introduction of the housing measures comes after the disease was detected at over 70 premises since the beginning of this October, as well as multiple reports in wild birds.
The Chief Veterinary Officer is now encouraging all bird keepers across England to use the week to prepare, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their private vet and expand housing where necessary.
How to spot avian influenza
There are 2 types of avian influenza.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the more serious type. It is often fatal in birds. The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds (which can include any or a combination of the following) are:
- sudden and rapid increase in the number of birds found dead
- several birds affected in the same shed or air space
- swollen head
- closed and excessively watery eyes
- lethargy and depression
- recumbency and unresponsiveness
- incoordination and loss of balance
- head and body tremoring
- drooping of the wings and/or dragging of legs
- twisting of the head and neck
- swelling and blue discolouration of comb and wattles
- haemorrhages on shanks of the legs and under the skin of the neck
- loss of appetite or marked decrease in feed consumption
- sudden increase or decrease in water consumption
- respiratory distress such as gaping (mouth breathing), nasal snicking (coughing sound), sneezing, gurgling or rattling
- fever or noticeable increase in body temperature
- discoloured or loose watery droppings
- cessation or marked reduction in egg production
Clinical signs can vary between species of bird and some species (for example ducks and geese) may show minimal clinical signs.
Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious and may show more vague clinical signs. It can cause mild breathing problems and reduction of egg production, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.
The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and whether it has any other illnesses.
Anyone who keeps poultry must keep a close watch on them for any signs of disease, and must seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.
Photos of clinical signs
APHA have published some photos of clinical signs of avian influenza on Flickr.
How avian influenza is spread
Avian influenza spreads from bird to bird by direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces. It can also be spread by contaminated feed and water or by dirty vehicles, clothing and footwear.
The avian influenza virus changes frequently, creating new strains, and there is a constant risk that one of the new strains may spread easily among people.
Avian influenza isn’t an airborne virus.
‘Stop the spread’ webinars
Whether you have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock, you can find out what you can do to keep your birds free of avian influenza by watching one our avian influenza ‘stop the spread’ webinars.
Register your birds
If you have not already registered your birds or updated your contact details recently, we encourage you to register now, so we can contact you quickly if there is a disease outbreak in your area and you need to take action.
If you have more than 50 birds, you are legally required to register your flock within one month of their arrival at your premises. If you have less than 50 birds, including pet birds, you are still strongly encouraged to register.
Find out how to register your birds.
Report signs of disease
You must keep a close watch on your birds for any signs of disease, and must seek prompt advice from your vet if you have any concerns. If you suspect avian influenza you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. Failure to do so is an offence.
Avian influenza controls, are enforced by the Local Authority Animal Health Function (LAAHF), which is normally situated with the Trading Standards or Environmental Health Service of a local authority.
You should contact your local authority to find out how to raise reports of non-compliance. If you need help with this you can ask your local council.