With over 5000 deaths of crane recorded in Israel and a similar number of barnacle geese deaths in the UK, not to mention thousands of poultry being culled, the recent outbreak of bird flu is of significant concern.

Very frequently I have members of the public alert me to dead specimens they have found in the wild, who either want to donate dead birds to me, or keep them to have them mounted for themselves. However, at the moment I feel it’s very important to address this issue, and to be mindful about the current situation.

Waterfowl and sea birds are particularly more susceptible (but not limited to) to infection, so please be particularly cautious if you come across dead or infected ducks, geese, swans etc.

The risk of infection from bird to human is believed to be low, however at this moment in time with little information on the strain, it is sensible to follow the following advice from DEFRA:

“Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.

In Great Britain, if you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77).

We then collect some of these birds and test them to help us understand how the disease is distributed geographically and in different types of bird, not all birds will be collected. Wild birds are susceptible to a range of diseases and injuries and not all dead birds will have been infected with avian influenza.

We publish a report (updated regularly) on findings of highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds in Great Britain and provide further details in our outbreak assessments.

Where dead birds are not required for surveillance purposes it is the landowner’s responsibility to safely dispose of the carcases.

Further Information

For further reading surrounding the outbreak, I can recommend reading the informative article written by BirdLife International. For more practical and legal advice issued by the Government, especially if you keep domestic birds such as chickens, please see the relevant links below.

On a final note, especially with the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird watch taking place this weekend, now is the time to keep your bird feeding stations squeaky clean and disinfected, to make sure that the outbreak of the avian flu is controlled as effectively as possible to keep our feathered friends safe!