As you will be aware, due to an increased risk of incursion of avian influenza (bird flu) for wild birds, gamebirds, poultry and other captive birds within the UK, an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was declared by Scottish Ministers, covering the whole of Scotland, on 03 November 2021. Similar legislation was enacted across all UK administrations.
Subsequently, measures that made it a legal requirement for all poultry and captive birds (with the exception of game birds kept for restocking) to be housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds, and for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to contain and eradicate the disease, were implemented on 29 November 2021.
Following feedback from stakeholders and government colleagues, and in light of recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza within the UK, we recognised a need to issue the following important outbreak-specific advice to all involved with gamebirds in Scotland.
Biosecurity means simple procedures or steps you can take to prevent disease. The risk of bird flu in the UK from wild birds never disappears completely and so good biosecurity should be incorporated into daily practice, but during an outbreak period it is vital to protect your birds. An outbreak of bird flu at any size game or poultry establishment can have a profound impact on the commercial game and poultry sector through both the introduction of movement restrictions and temporary loss of exports with other countries.
This biosecurity guidance includes details of measures that should be taken in the current Avian Influenza Prevention Zone and provides specific advice for game bird keepers. Complete the biosecurity self-assessment checklist to ensure you are complying with the mandatory biosecurity requirements.
The legal requirement to house all poultry or captive birds in the UK includes caught-up gamebirds. The aim of this requirement is to segregate poultry and captive birds, such as caught up gamebirds, from wild birds as much as is possible to reduce the risk of infection. The exception to this requirement are game birds kept for restocking supplies. Although it is important to note that these birds must be supplied with feed and water either indoors or under a shelter which prevents contact by wild birds with the feed and water supplied.
A further biosecurity measure integral to the legal restrictions applied, and key to reducing the risk of onward spread, is the amendment of the General Licence permitting bird gatherings (to prohibit gatherings involving kept galliformes (chickens, turkeys, pheasants, partridges, quails and other land fowl) and kept anseriformes, (ducks, geese, swans and other water fowl). It is important to stress that these bird gathering events include the catching-up of wild game birds. There are, however, exceptions to this and the following are not considered to be gatherings and do not, therefore, need to be licensed:
- catching-up of wild game birds (where they have come from multiple locations but are then moved to a single location afterwards, and remain there for breeding or other purposes)
- birds which are brought together from different locations, but where no birds move off the premises within 13 days of the last bird arriving on the premises;
It should be noted, however, that there is some risk that birds gathered from the wild could be infected with avian influenza, and by gathering them up and bringing them back to a farm/shoot/estate, this could infect the birds that are already there. Caught up pheasants are defined as poultry. Therefore, if disease is confirmed, this would result in a new infected premises. It is on this basis that all catching up activities are not recommended whilst the AIPZ measures are still in effect.
This recommendation holds even greater weight for premises that fall within geographical areas deemed at particular high risk to avian influenza (HRAs). Check if your premises falls within one of these areas by using our interactive map (please note the ‘layers’ functionality button top right on this interactive screen to add HRAs to the map).
Register Your Birds
There is a legal requirement for all poultry keepers with 50 or more birds to register their premises on the Great Britain Poultry Register – this includes game keepers. The voluntary registration of premises with fewer than 50 birds is highly encouraged – particularly if you are in, or close to, a higher risk area.
It should be noted that this is general advice for those whose activities do not fall within Protection and Surveillance Zones associated with an outbreak premises, within which specific legal regulations apply.
It is also worth noting that catching up gamebirds is only legal until 28th February in Scotland.
Avian influenza is a notifiable disease by law. If you find a single dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), a single dead bird of prey, or five or more dead wild birds of any other species (including gulls) at the same place at the same time, you should report them to Defra’s GB-wide telephone helpline: 03459 33 55 77 (please select option 7). It is advisable that you do not touch these birds.
Know the signs of bird flu in kept birds, which include loss of appetite, swollen heads, respiratory problems and multiple unexpected deaths. If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by contacting your local APHA office. Failure to do so is an offence.
Bird flu and its consequences can certainly impact game management and shooting, but it is also true that game managers and shooters are in a good position to detect and report outbreaks. Please be vigilant and report any concerns.
Scottish Government have joined with organisations involved in gamebird management to issue revised guidance on bird flu and the way it can affect the activities of gamebird rearers.
Queries specific to gamebirds and avian influenza can also be addressed to:
The Game Farmers Association
PO Box 3629
Tel: 01189 797255
Scottish Government guidance on avian influenza can be found at:
You may wish to pass this information on to your members as appropriate.