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When there's talk of a disease outbreak it's only natural to worry about pets or livestock. Find out where you can get the latest information, and what to do if you suspect that some animals you own or have seen may be infected.

General advice

  • If you see a wild bird that's sick and appears to have bird flu, avoid contact with the bird - including feathers and waste.
  • Seek advice from your vet. If you are concerned about the health of your animals, you should always seek expert advice from your vet.
  • Keep up-to-date with Defra. The latest information on disease outbreaks, including precautions to take and how to report disease, is available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Visit the Defra website. Call the Defra Helpline: 03459 33 55 77. Email:
  • Contact us. If you are worried about the health or welfare of some animals you have seen, call our cruelty line: 0300 1234 999.

Bird flu advice and what to do

Bird flu (also called avian influenza) is a notifiable, infectious disease that affects both wild and kept poultry. The disease is taken very seriously as it's devastating to birds, spreads very fast and whilst some strains have the potential to jump from birds to humans, this is very rare.

The UK's devolved administrations may decide to declare an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ), either regionally, or across the whole of the UK to help reduce the risk of the disease spreading.

  • 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.
  • 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 - please select option 7). You can also report dead wild birds to Defra via their website. Don't touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.

All bird keepers (whether you have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock) must keep a close watch on them for signs of disease and maintain good biosecurity at all times. This is especially relevant if your birds are in a Higher Risk Area (HRA). If you have any concerns about the health of your birds, seek prompt advice from your vet.

You should register your poultry, even if only kept as pets, so Defra can contact you during an outbreak. This is a legal requirement if you have 50 or more birds. Poultry includes chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigeon (bred for meat), partridge, quail, guinea fowl and pheasants.

Animal water rescue team approaching swans

Poultry keepers

For the latest information and advice, including how to keep your own poultry safe in England, please visit the Defra website.

For poultry keepers in Wales, please see the Welsh Government website.

In addition to the government advice, there is also a simple guide to protect your birds from bird flu put together by us, Defra, the NFU and other organisations providing best practice advice to help backyard flock keepers.

Bird flu and handling baby birds

For the baby bird season in 2022, UKHSA and DEFRA have updated their position on the public handling of sick and injured birds.

Birds you can and can't handle

Defra/APHA has assessed that the risk of avian influenza in live Passerine baby birds is very low. Passeriformes (perching birds) include the common garden bird species such as:

  • finches
  • sparrows
  • tits
  • warblers
  • robins
  • wrens
  • swallows

Where these baby birds have been found outside a nest and need to be handled following our guidance detailed below, the handler should wash their hands thoroughly after handling to avoid contamination with other infectious organisms.

This handling advice does not apply to waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) and other contact with wild birds should still be avoided.

This assessment has been made on the basis of the type of Avian Influenza A (H5) strains currently circulating in the UK and continental Europe as of April 2022. Other strains would require a reassessment if and when they arise.

What to do with the birds you can handle

For nestling or fledgeling common garden birds (including pigeons), you can either:

Make sure you wear gloves or use a towel to handle the bird. You must also wash your hands thoroughly after handling the bird.

Check to make sure it's a safe bird to handle

For the purposes of identification of a bird the advice is:

  • Many fledgling and young birds found are passerines (perching birds)
  • Water birds (water fowl) such as ducklings, cygnets or goslings, can be identified simply by the fact that they have webbed feet from birth
If you capture the bird, keep them in a box and don't allow anyone else to touch or handle them. The bird should then be transported in the box and kept in a well-ventilated environment, for example open the windows of your car and keep the box in the back.

Found a dead baby bird

Anyone who has found a dead baby bird should follow Defra's advice for the public. You can also report dead wild birds to Defra on their website
RSPCA inspector handling a bird with gloves

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