Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Last updated: 24 Nov 2021 - see all updates
Published: 19 Mar 2021

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

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

Latest situation

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

Avian influenza

Avian influenza (bird flu) mainly affects birds. It can also affect humans and other mammals. Avian influenza is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by contacting your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

Wild bird surveillance

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) carries out year-round avian influenza surveillance of dead wild birds submitted via public reports and warden patrols.

Recent reports

The dead wild bird surveillance programme has identified the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in the following cases in Scotland:

  • Kirkcaldy, Fife (unspecified gull, collected on 14 October 2021)
  • Leith, Edinburgh (mute swan, collected on 23 October 2021)
  • Fife (buzzard, collected on 6 November 2021)
  • Caerlaverock, Dumfries (2 x whooper swans, collected on 9 and 12 November 2021)
  • Perth, Tayside (unspecified duck, collected 14 November 2021)

In the above case in Perth Tayside, a risk assessment is being carried out to determine what disease control measures are required.

Laboratory analysis has confirmed that all other cases of HPAI H5N1 listed above present the same low risk to human health as other recent wild bird AI findings. Having carried out a risk assessment regarding these localities, the Scottish Government concluded that no control or monitoring zones are required.

Having carried out a risk assessment regarding the cases in Kirkcaldy and Leith, we have concluded that no control or monitoring zones are required.

The cases in Fife and Dumfries are currently being assessed in terms of disease control requirements.

All findings of HPAI in wild bird in great Britain are published weekly.

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 national telephone helpline: 03459 33 55 77 - please select option 7. It is advisable that you do not touch these birds.

Risk level

The risk of incursion of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 infection in wild birds has increased from MEDIUM (event occurs regularly) to HIGH (occurs often).

The risk of poultry and captive bird exposure to HPAI H5 across Great Britain has been raised from LOW (with medium uncertainty) to MEDIUM (with medium uncertainty) where biosecurity is sub-optimal, and remains at LOW (with medium uncertainty) where stringent biosecurity measures are applied.

Further details on the evidence which supported these decisions can be found in our risk assessments.

Effective biosecurity remains an essential part of standard animal husbandry, and is the most effective measure of disease control. Low risk of disease does not mean no risk. Bird keepers are strongly advised to apply high standards of biosecurity measures at all times to prevent and mitigate future disease outbreaks.

Game birds

We 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.



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

First published: 19 Mar 2021 Last updated: 24 Nov 2021 -