What to do if you keep birds

Bird flu is a disease that mainly affects wild and captive birds such as poultry and game birds.

The number of confirmed cases of bird flu has led the Government to declare an Avian Flu (bird flu) Prevention Zone across Great Britain.

This places duties on all bird keepers - whether pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock - to take certain measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Housing measures were introduced from midnight on 29 November 2021. This made it a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.

If you suspect any type of bird flu in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Animal and Health Plant Agency Helpline on 03000 200 301. Failure to do so is an offence.

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

Read the latest updates on the bird flu outbreak in the UK on the Government's website (opens in new window)

Register for updates from Defra

To receive the latest updates from the Government on the bird flu situation and find out if the virus is found in your area, all keepers of birds are encouraged to register with the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). If you have more than 50 birds this is a legal requirement.

Find out how to register your birds.

How to spot the signs of bird flu

Birds with bird flu may have the following symptoms:

  • swollen head
  • blue discolouration of the neck or throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gasping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling and rattling
  • diarrhoea
  • increased mortality

If you suspect any type of bird flu in poultry or captive birds, including those you keep as pets, you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. Failure to do so is an offence.

What to do if you see a dead wild bird

If you see any 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). Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.

Defra may want to collect the bird for testing or they may tell you to contact us. If the bird is on public land then we will arrange for collection and dispose of the bird safely. 

If the bird is on private land then it is the landowner's responsibility to dispose of the bird safely and legally.

To report a dead wild bird on public land to us please call 01386 565199 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

How to dispose of a dead wild bird found at domestic premises with suspected or confirmed bird flu

 Once you have informed Defra you can dispose of the body by burial using the following method:

  • the dead wild bird can be buried, but not in a plastic bag
  • the depth of the burial hole must be sufficient to prevent animals scavenging and gaining access to it – at least 60cm deep is advised
  • location must not be near any watercourses, or likely to contaminate local water supplies

General advice to the public

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that avian influenza (bird flu) is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low.

The Food Standards Agency has said that on the basis of the current scientific evidence, bird flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Avian influenza is unconnected with coronavirus (COVID-19).