ARCHIVE: Avian influenza (bird flu): Wild birds
This page gives information about wild birds. For information about farmed, pet or otherwise kept birds, please see our kept birds page.
- Guidance on handling and disposing of dead garden and wild birds
- Surveillance for Avian Influenza in wild birds
- Wild birds, nests and advice on licensing
- Public parks and open waters
Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people. If dead birds are handled, it is important to wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible. Avoid touching your face and certainly do not eat until you have washed your hands. Clean any soiling on clothing with soap and water.
It is always sensible to prevent pets eating wild bird or other animal carcases given that there is the possibility that the death could have been caused by poisoning or from a severe bacterial infection or the carcase could have been deliberately poisoned for use as a bait.
The advice given here applies in all circumstances where members of the public may come across a dead bird, regardless of whether there is any avian influenza in the UK. For information on the disposal of poultry please see our Fallen stock pages.
Please see the wild bird surveillance pages for information.
If you find any dead birds (less than 10), including garden birds then you should:
- leave it alone, or
- follow the guidelines below for disposal
Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people and some simple hygiene precautions should minimise the risk of infection. It is hard for people to catch avian influenza from birds and the following simple steps are also effective against avian influenza.
If you have to move a dead bird:
- Avoid touching the bird with your bare hands
- If possible, wear disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling (if disposable gloves are not available see 7)
- Place the dead bird in a suitable plastic bag, preferably leak proof. Care should be taken not to contaminate the outside of the bag
- Tie the bag and place it in a second plastic bag
- Remove gloves by turning them inside out and then place them in the second plastic bag. Tie the bag and dispose of in the normal household refuse bin.
- Hands should then be washed thoroughly with soap and water
- If disposable gloves are not available, a plastic bag can be used as a make-shift glove. When the dead bird has been picked up, the bag can be turned back on itself and tied. It should then be placed in a second plastic bag, tied and disposed of in the normal household waste
- Alternatively, the dead bird can be buried, but not in a plastic bag
- Any clothing that has been in contact with the dead bird should be washed using ordinary washing detergent at the temperature normally used for washing the clothing.
- Any contaminated indoor surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned with normal household cleaner.
We are currently seeing an increase in garden bird and particularly finch deaths. The most affected species are greenfinch and chaffinch. The majority of current deaths are being caused by a protozoal organism Trichomonas. This is not a disease which humans can catch and it is unrelated to Avian Influenza. Further information...
A programme for monitoring of wild bird mortalities, including for evidence of West Nile Virus, has been in operation for some years and the GB Survey has built on that arrangement.
Information about the GB survey of wild bird populations to screen for the presence of Avian Influenza is available.
Almost all cases of avian influenza in humans to date have been due to contact with sick or infected domestic poultry. The public should not take any action against nesting wild birds as there is minimal public health risk from catching AI or any other disease from wild birds.
It is important to conserve wild bird species from an animal welfare and conservation standpoint. All wild birds are afforded statutory protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which fulfils obligations under the EC Wild Birds Directive. It is an offence under section 1 of the Act to kill, injure or take any wild bird; take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built, and take or destroy an egg of any wild bird.
Defra issues 2 types of licences to allow the control of wild birds for specific purposes such as preserving public health and safety or preventing the spread of disease. Individual licences are issued by Natural England and are carefully considered on a case by case basis. General licences are issued to cover situations where any “authorised” person would find applying for an individual licence an overly burdensome and bureaucratic task to permit an action that would be routinely approved. Licences can only be issued provided that, as regards the purpose of the licence, there is no other satisfactory solution.
Given the minimal public health risk involved at this time and the advice already available on measures that can be taken to separate kept birds from wild birds, the use of individual or general licences is not considered appropriate in relation to AI. Further guidance regarding kept birds is available.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has prepared a risk assessment on the risk from avian influenza to visitors to public parks and open waters. The report concludes that there is no excess risk to visitors and that there should be no restrictions on park visiting.
- Avian influenza in public parks/parkland and open waters due to wild bird exposure - risk assessment (PDF 140 KB) - Link to HPA website.
- The British Trust for Ornithology have published a report on wild bird surveillance and migration mapping (PDF 12.8 MB- Please note this is a very large file - Link to BTO website). A summary of the report is available.
- UK surveys of wild bird populations to screen for the presence of Avian Influenza.
- Defra Wild Bird Mortality (unusual mortality events) Survey - Guidelines for reporting unusual mortality events to Defra (PDF 24 KB)
- Defra factsheet - Information
on clinical signs, transmission and disease control.
Page last modified:
March 16, 2012 18:10