Bird Flu 2022/23

turkeys dying from bird flu

Every winter seems to bring bird flu these days but this year it has arrived earlier and is much closer to home with cases confirmed by DEFRA in Swindon and Farringdon and distressing stories of dead birds being found in the countryside. Local bird rescuer Aimee Wallis fron Corvid Dawn Bird Rescue talks to Suzi Cairns about the issue – listen here.

Bird flu emanated from commercial poultry farms and is known to affect chickens, pheasants, turkeys (in photo above), geese, ducks and water birds. Researchers on pigeons a couple of years ago concluded that they weren’t able to spread bird flu so hopefully this is still the case. According to this Countryfile article, Defra and the UKHSA says the risk of avian flu in common garden bird species such as finches, sparrows, tits, warblers, robins, wrens, swallows as well as pigeons is very low. However, Britain’s seabird populations have been devastated including Great Skuas, guillemots, terns, geese and gannets.

There have been local reports of dead starlings and pigeons, owls and sparrowhawks but it is unconfirmed whether they have died from bird flu. Sadly a lot of pigeons get canker at this time of this year when they are moulting and their immune system is low and Aimee says it’s been rife this year. They puff up and become lethargic with breathing problems as their airways close up.  If you find a sick bird please call Amy for advice on 07533 070155 or the RSPB.

Bird flu is spread through the faeces and saliva of infected birds and easily gets into water systems and is decimating sea bird colonies. So we are advised to stay away from streams and lakes as shoes and dogs will spread the infection. Keep water in your garden for birds and hedgehogs clean as they might become contaminated by birds flying over or roaming in the garden.

If you live near a river or canal that has ducks, put your bird feeders up high so mallards aren’t attracted into your garden. If you want to feed ducks, it is reommended to do so from a bridge so that you don’t get close to the birds and they stay in the water.

How to identify bird flu and report suspected

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If you find a very poorly looking bird with symptoms of swollen eyes or head, mucus from the mouth, blue throat, head tremors the chances are it’s bird flu.

If you want to help a sick bird, it’s advisable to wear a mask and put on gloves before you pick it up and take it to a vet. It used to be thought that bird flu was incurable but there are reports of success with gulls in the south east. Even if the vet decides to euthanise, this is kinder that leaving the bird to die from the disease or predation.

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.

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

We were told by a man on the Defra helpline that if you find a carcass you should double bag it (preferably wearing gloves) and put it in the nearest bin that will be emptied soon. If the carcass is on public land it is meant to be the local authority’s responsibility to dispose of them.

Defra takes the report but does not collect carcasses themselves.



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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale