Avian influenza (bird flu): how to spot and report the disease

Advice on what to do if you suspect there is an outbreak of avian influenza.

Dead or sick wild birds: what to do

Advice for members of the public, farmers and landowners

Wild birds

Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find. Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people.

In Great Britain, if you find at the same time:

  • a single dead bird of prey, swan, goose, duck or gull or
  • five or more dead wild birds of any other species

you should report them on gov.uk's report dead wild birds page.

Alternatively, you can phone the helpline: 03459 33 55 77. 

If you do not wish to provide your contact details

If you wish to submit a report without providing contact details, then the telephone helpline should be used. You must be 18 or over to use this service to report dead wild birds.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency’s GB Avian Influenza Wildlife Interactive Map and Data Dashboard

For more information see the:

Suspected diseases that may spread

If a wild animal is suspected of being infected with a disease that can spread to people or animals, such as avian influenza, the carcases must be disposed of as a category 1 Animal By Product (ABP) via an approved disposal route.

If wild birds are not suspected of being infected with a disease and do not require reporting to Defra’s GB helpline, follow the advice below for their disposal.

Disposal of dead wild birds found on private property

It is recommended that you do not touch or pick up a dead, wild bird, but leave it in situ. However, should you choose to dispose of the dead, wild bird, the following methods should be applied:

Household or municipal waste refuse:

  • if possible, wear disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling dead wild birds (if disposable gloves are not available, a plastic bag can be used as a make-shift glove). When the dead bird has been picked up, the bag can be turned back on itself and tied. It should then be placed in a second plastic bag, tied and disposed of in the normal household waste (lidded bin outside)
  • place the dead bird in a suitable plastic bag, preferably leak proof. Care should be taken not to contaminate the outside of the bag
  • tie the bag and place it in a second plastic bag
  • remove gloves by turning them inside out and then place them in the second plastic bag. Tie the bag and dispose of it in the normal household refuse bin


  • the dead 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 60 cm deep is advised
  • the location must not be near any watercourses, or likely to contaminate local water supplies

Disposal of dead wild birds on public land

Where dead birds are on public land, the local authority will consider on a case by case basis the removal of carcases. See our guidance on how to report a dead or injured animal.

Wildlife crime

If you find a dead bird of prey/corvid that you believe to be the victim of wildlife crime, do not touch the bird. This will help preserve any evidence of a potential crime scene. Also, the dead bird may contain poisons that can be absorbed into the skin or contaminate the environment. Please contact the police on 101 and ask if the matter can be referred to a Wildlife Crime Officer. There is more information on the Police Scotland website. Alternatively, the incident can be reported anonymously to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

Report an injured animal or sick bird to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) in Scotland.

Telephone: 03000 999 999). Information about call charges is available.

The SSPCA advises people who have found an injured or sick bird to contain the bird without making contact. Please then phone the SSPCA’s animal helpline on the number above.

Human health implications

Some strains of bird flu can pass to humans, but this is very rare. It usually requires very close contact between humans and infected birds. Find out more at: bird flu and human health

Read about the latest avian influenza outbreak situation in Scotland, including details of the current disease response plan.


Email: Animal.Health@gov.scot (however, only report any dead wild bird findings via 03459 33 55 77)

Animal Health and Welfare 
Scottish Government
Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate
Saughton House

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