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Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) Updates

Keep up to date with the latest position on the current outbreak of avian flu at this page of the DEFRA website. The DEFRA helpline is 03459 335577.

Update from the General Manager on 15th February 2017

In relation to bird flu the general advice to members hasn’t changed since the initial statement in December i.e. you can still let your birds out for exercise. However, there is still confusion over whether this can take place within the 10km zone around confirmed outbreaks. Despite my best efforts I have been unable to get clarification in this respect from DEFRA – I emailed a senior member of DEFRA again yesterday requesting clarification. In the meantime the link below will be of help in identifying whether lofts fall within the 10km prevention zones.

Details of the zones can be found on the interactive map 

As soon as clarification is received in respect of the 10km zones this website will be updated.

Ian Evans
General Manager


Advice in Scotland

The Scottish Government issued a press release on 9th February 2017 notifying bird keepers that the Avian Influenza (AI) Prevention Zone will remain in force until at least the end of April 2017. However, from 28 February the requirements of the zone will change, meaning that keepers may let their birds out provided that they have enhanced biosecurity measures in place.

They state: “An AI Prevention Zone was first declared from 6 December 2016, and was renewed on 4 January 2017 to last until 28 February. The current zone, which continues to have effect, requires all poultry and captive bird keepers to apply heightened biosecurity including keeping their birds indoors if possible, or otherwise separated from wild birds.

“Since the Zone was first declared the risk level for Avian Influenza incursions into the UK has been raised to ‘low to medium’ for poultry or captive birds, and ‘high’ for wild birds. Eight cases of H5N8 have been confirmed in domestic birds in England and Wales, as well as wild birds across the UK including a peregrine falcon found in Dumfries and Galloway in December 2016.

“In light of the continuing risk across the UK and Europe, Scottish Ministers have decided that a further zone should be declared lasting until the end of April. However, following discussions with industry stakeholders and their representatives, it has been agreed that, based on current risk levels, it would be proportionate to amend the zone from 28 February to allow some birds to be let out under enhanced biosecurity measures, to protect our vital poultry industry while still minimising disease risk. Keepers will still have the option to house their birds – for many this will continue to be the easiest way to protect them from AI. However, there are steps that keepers should consider taking now in order to make their range unattractive to wild birds for the remaining days in February – it is vital that these activities start as soon as possible:
• Make your birds’ range unattractive to wild birds:
• Net ponds and drain waterlogged areas of land. If this isn’t possible, then can you fence them off from your birds so they cannot access it whilst ranging, or use an alternative paddock that doesn’t have access to water
• Remove any feeders and water stations from the range, or ensure that they are covered to sufficiently restrict access by wild birds
• Consider using decoy predators or other livestock (such as sheep or cattle) on the range, or allowing dogs to accompany you on foot patrols around the range. You could also consider bird scarers if their use is appropriate for the area (see NFU Code of Practice on bird scarers).

“Further information is available at www.gov.scot/avianinfluenza. The ban on gatherings of poultry, game birds and waterfowl also remains in force.

“Bird keepers in Scotland are reminded of the importance of excellent biosecurity and anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must report it to their local Animal Plant & Health Agency office. Contact details can be found here” 


Advice from DEFRA on Shows and Sales

“As you are aware, the gathering of birds for a sale or show is permitted under the specific terms and conditions of a Defra General Licence.

In the light of the current risk of avian influenza (Bird flu), on 20th December 2016, the terms of the General Licence were amended to ban the gathering of poultry including chicken, geese, ducks, pheasants, turkeys and guinea fowl – they are not permitted under the amended general licence.

However, pigeons and cage birds e.g. canaries, budgies and finches, are considered lower risk, therefore gatherings of these birds are currently still permitted, providing the terms of the General Licence are adhered to.


The General Licence and information about it can be viewed at:

The terms and conditions that must be adhered to are summarised below:
1) The Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) must be notified of the gathering at least 7 days prior to the sale date, including the following details:
a) Details of the licencee (organiser) – full name, contact address and telephone number)
b) Date & time of the gathering
c) Location of the gathering
d) Anticipated numbers and type of birds.

2) A contingency plan, for use if avian notifiable disease is suspected, must be available for inspection, and should contain the following details:
i) Name and contact details of a nominated veterinary surgeon who should be available to attend should it be necessary.
ii) A description of the isolation facilities available.
iii) A plan of action in the event of suspected disease.
An example contingency plan template is attached here

3) All cages, crates, baskets or other containers must be cleansed and disinfected prior to them being brought to the sale, ensuring that they are free from droppings, bedding etc.

4) Any spillages of litter or droppings must be cleaned up and disinfected using a disinfectant approved for on the Defra approved disinfectant list
The disinfectant must be approved for and used as specified in column iii for Poultry and Avian Influenza Orders.
Bin bags and a spray bottle of the disinfectant (freshly made up & labelled) must be available at all times whilst the birds are present.

5) A record of all birds at the gathering must be made and kept for at least 3 months after the show. The record should detail the following:
i) Bird identification & description
ii) Full name of owner/vendor/purchaser
iii) Home address of owner/vendor/purchaser
iv) Contact telephone number.

6) Written biosecurity advice must be given to all those bringing or purchasing birds at the gathering, stating that the bird(s) should be isolated from any other birds (except those attending the same event) for at least 7 days and any signs of ill health observed in the purchased bird(s) during this period must be reported to a veterinary surgeon and such birds must not be mixed with any other birds until the presence of an avian notifiable disease has been ruled out.

7) All bedding, droppings and leftover feed must be securely bagged for disposal and any contaminated areas disinfected.

Sales and shows may be subject to inspection.
Please ensure that all relevant documents and disinfectants are readily available and in use at all sales.
Please note that non-compliance may constitute an offence under the Avian Influenza (Protective Measures) Regulations 2006 and the Animal Health Act 1981 and render the offender liable to three months in prison and/or a £5000 fine on conviction.”


The following update refers to Northern Ireland specifically (see the DAERA website). For updates regarding the position within England, Scotland and Wales please see the paragraphs further down the page:

Movements into Northern Ireland

All general licences relating to the movement into Northern Ireland of poultry, day old chicks, hatching eggs, ornamental fowl, racing pigeons, captive birds, poultry products, heat treated poultry meat, other poultry meat, table eggs and egg products etc. are revoked.

New specific licensing arrangements are in effect from 9.00 am, Monday 19 December 2016.

Anyone wishing to bring any of the above categories of poultry/birds/products into Northern Ireland or requiring further information should contact the Department’s Trade Section on (028) 90 52 0865 or email tradeadminpost@daera-ni.gov.uk.

Have we banned imports of birds and their products from GB?

From 9am on 19 December 2016, all existing general licences relating to the importation of poultry and hatching eggs, ornamental fowl, racing pigeons and captive birds from GB are revoked. New specific licensing arrangements have been put in place.

Can I still race my pigeons?

Yes, but for your birds’ safety you may want to think about rescheduling any races or meets, where possible, given the heightened risk of HPAI circulating in wild birds. If you have any specific concerns you should discuss these with your private vet or local Divisional Veterinary office.


Update regarding the position in England, Wales & Scotland at 20.45 on 22nd December 2016

The following has been taken from the DEFRA website. The surveilance zone relates to a 10km radius around the site of outbreaks of bird flu:

“For pigeons, aviary birds and certain other captive pet birds (strictly, columbiformes, passerines and psittaciformes), gatherings are only permitted (outside the Protection and Surveillance Zones) subject to strict general licence conditions.

We have published guidance on how to follow the general licence conditions for a bird gathering, and biosecurity advice for bird gathering organisers and participants.”

Ian Evans
General Manager


Update at 13.10 on 14th December 2016

Following my telephone and email conversations with DEFRA/APHA representatives over the last week I have received the following information. 

Ian Evans
General Manager  


Avian Influenza Prevention Zone – Additional Information for Royal Pigeon Racing Association

Current Situation

  • The UK does not currently have any cases of avian influenza.
  • The Prevention Zone is a precautionary measure to encourage poultry and captive bird keepers to improve their biosecurity. Further information on the declaration and avian influenza is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu

About the Avian Influenza virus

Avian Influenza can spread from wild birds to your own birds by:

  • Direct contact between infected wild birds and your own birds
  • Contaminated faeces or body fluids coming into contact with your own birds.
    • Pigeons can catch avian influenza as any bird can, but they play less of a role in the transmission of disease to poultry
    • Avian Influenza symptoms in pigeons are similar to those in poultry and include:
  • swollen head
  • discolouration of neck and throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • diarrhoea
  • neurological signs such as shivering
  • fewer eggs laid
  • increased deaths

How you can reduce the risk to your pigeons

To reduce the risk of your birds becoming infected with Avian Influenza, you should take steps to avoid your birds coming in to contact with wild birds, or their faeces/body fluids

  • The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone conditions apply to all captive birds. However, we are aware that racing and show pigeons are already fed indoors using commercial feeds and housed indoors with little or no access for other wild birds
  • You should focus on ensuring a high level of biosecurity in your lofts, particularly if you also keep poultry – chickens, hens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and guinea fowl – and should follow the advice, where practical, in the biosecurity advice document on gov.uk.
  • We recognise it is currently the closed season for racing pigeons and racing is not scheduled to begin again until April.
  • You can still fly your pigeons for exercise.
  • You should, where practicable, undertake vermin (rats and mice) control to reduce their contact with feed and water for pigeons
  • Your birds should, where practicable, receive mains or treated water that is not accessible to wild birds or poultry to reduce the risk of contamination.
  • You should also ensure your baskets are as clean as practicable when you are using them to transport birds to other locations (other lofts, shows, sales, etc).
  • You may wish to clean your bird’s feet before transporting them to other locations
  • If you also keep poultry, ensure that your pigeons do not mix with any poultry or have access to poultry’s food and water

Shows & gatherings: there is no ban or restriction on shows or gatherings of pigeons at present. However, organisers may want to consider rescheduling them, given the heightened risk of Avian Influenza circulating in wild birds. If you have any specific concerns you should discuss these with your private vet or local APHA office.

There is a General Licence that allows shows and gatherings of birds to occur. You don’t need to apply for a licence but you must comply with the terms of the General Licence.

You must tell APHA you’re having an event (show/sale/racing) at least 7 days before a bird gathering. APHA will tell the local authority about the gathering and you should keep records for 3 months. You’ll need to give APHA the following details:

  • Date(s) on which there will be birds at the gathering
  • place at which it will be held (address and postcode)
  • your name, address and contact number, and an email address and mobile number if you have them
  • purpose of the gathering (show, sale, racing, etc)
  • types and numbers of birds expected

Further information on ways to reduce disease spread at gatherings is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/bird-gatherings-licences and APHA contact details are below

APHA England: customeradvice@apha.gsi.gov.uk 03000 200 301 (select option ‘other’)

APHA Scotland Inverness Office: APHA.Scotland@apha.gsi.gov.uk 01463 728800

APHA Wales. Caernarfon Office. APHA.CymruWales@apha.gsi.gov.uk 0300 303 8268


Update at 09.15 13th December 2016

Following a number of telephone calls with APHA/DEFRA officers yesterday I can confirm that the restriction relating to pigeons has been lifted. Fanciers are reminded that every step should be taken to avoid pigeons coming into contact with wild birds including drinking from the same water.

Ian Evans
General Manager   


Update at 17.00 12th December 2016

Since the update below I have been in regular contact with DEFRA/Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). During this period members and organisations have been given conflicting advice in relation to pigeons. However, the advice I have been given is that the compulsory confinement of pigeons remains and that anyone releasing pigeons outside of the loft may be liable to prosecution. Please be assured that I am doing everything possible to get this restriction lifted.  

Ian Evans
General Manager


Update at 14.40 on 7th December 2016

DEFRA have released guidance in relation to Avian Influenza which includes a Prevention Zone declaration for all poultry and captive birds. The Zone that covers the whole of England, Scotland and Wales will remain in place for a period of 30 days – until 6th January 2017.

A DEFRA representative has advised that this requires the immediate and compulsory confinement of pigeons within their lofts/housing. This is necessary to avoid contact with wild birds.

There are no restrictions on bird gatherings such as shows but it is stressed that it is essential that good biosecurity is maintained and birds should be healthy before transporting.

Updates will also be posted on this website as and when received.

Further information can be found on this page of the gov.uk website.  

Ian Evans
General Manager

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