Publication - Advice and guidance

Bird gatherings: guidance

Published: 27 Nov 2018

Guidance for organisers of bird gatherings in Scotland.

27 Nov 2018
Bird gatherings: guidance

Definition of a bird gathering

Bird gatherings are occasions at which birds are brought together (from different locations) for any purpose, and afterwards disperse to more than one location. This includes fairs, markets, shows, sales or exhibitions, races or meetings (for example pigeons), and traders who gather birds from different sources to be sold online.

Birds which are gathered together from different sources (such as internet sales), but remain in one location for at least 13 days after the arrival of the last bird, would not be considered a gathering.

General licence compliance

All bird gatherings that comply with the general licence that came into force on 22 November 2018 are now permitted in Scotland. Poultry, game birds or waterfowl are permitted to attend gatherings, provided that the birds do not come from any declared Protection or Surveillance Zones.

Bird gatherings permitted under the general licence are subject to the conditions of the general licence. One of those is that you must make biosecurity advice available to all attendees. This could include, for example, making printed copies of the Scottish Government biosecurity leaflet for all bird keepers available at your gathering.  Participants should be advised to check the health of their birds before bringing them to the event, and keep birds isolated for at least one week after the event to prevent any possible spread of disease.

You must also ensure that a named vet is available for the duration of the gathering. Ideally a vet would be present but if this is not possible then making your local vet practice aware of the event and having their phone number available is sufficient.

You must have a written contingency plan detailing what actions would be taken if a notifiable disease was discovered at, or near, the gathering - including how affected birds would be kept isolated on-site until a veterinary inpsector had provided further instructions. Your private vet or local APHA office will also be able to help.

In addition the requirements to notify APHA in advance of gatherings, keep a record of attendees, and prevent contaminated materials from entering the gathering, continue to apply. The text of the general licence sets out the full list of requirements in detail.

Notifiable diseases

If you suspect that a bird might be suffering from avian influenza, or any other notifiable avian disease, you must contact your nearest Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office immediately – failure to do this is an offence.

The reference to '13-days' within the general licence is offered as a clarification, secondary to the definition of a bird gathering, to provide a timeframe for those operating intermittent activities (such as internet sales) so that they can operate without being classified as a gathering.

It is not a movement ‘standstill’ or a ‘rule’ and does not apply to a participant's own birds, or to a participant that attends a poultry gathering. In practice, this means that there are no legal restrictions on birds returning to their place of origin after attending a show. 

Seven day monitoring rule

It is a requirement of the general licence that the show organiser/licensee must distribute biosecurity advice to any participant, which includes the following best practice recommendations:

  • birds should be inspected for signs of illness before travelling to any gathering
  • any birds travelling home from a gathering (returning stock or new) should be isolated from other birds at the premises and monitored for signs of illness for at least 7 days

Show organisers/licensees may wish to require evidence of the above best practices from their attendees, but their decision should take into account the specificities of their own situation and any limitations a requirement may pose.

It is the responsibility of the gathering organiser to ensure that the conditions of the general licence are complied with, including keeping a record of all attendees and details of where birds came from. If poultry, game birds or waterfowl come from areas located within any Protection of Surveillance Zone then they must not be allowed into the event.

Restrictions on poultry, waterfowl and game birds from protection or suveillance zones

Poultry, waterfowl and game birds are prohibited from attending gatherings if they come from any declared Protection or Surveillance Zones.

If poultry are attending your event then you must have a designated poultry expert (e.g. a competition judge or an experienced keeper) available to inspect each bird on arrival for signs of ill-health or welfare issues. Birds which fail this inspection must be refused entry, and a vet consulted.

The risk of avian influenza is considered to be heightened in the areas where Surveillance Zones and Protection Zones are declared or remain in force - they are usually centred on identified infected premises, where bird flu has been confirmed in kept birds. Because of the potential consequences of allowing kept birds from these areas to mix with other kept birds from lower-risk areas, the Scottish Government has prohibited their attendance at gatherings. This prohibition will last until any relevant zones are lifted by the appropriate administrations. 

Disease spread

If birds are infected with disease, the likelihood of spread of disease is greater than the general movement of poultry between premises outside disease control zones, because of the cumulative risk relating to multiple places of origin and multiple destinations after the event.  The risk of disease spread at a gathering is currently considered to be ‘low’ (ie rare but can occur) however, the impact of that disease spread is potentially significant. The establishment of zones and all the consequences of them would still be required by law, if disease was detected in a backyard flock or in other captive birds, in the same way as if found in commercial operation. That is why we require gathering organisers to adhere to the requirements of the general licence in order to reduce the risk of disease spread and impact.

Due to the significant potential impact of disease spread we expect a high level of compliance from keepers. Enforcement will be through Local Authorities and APHA, who will be contacting existing show organisers who have already registered shows with them. Non-compliance with the general licence may constitute an offence and a person may be liable to a term not exceeding six months in prison, and/or a £5,000 fine on conviction.

The latest information on gatherings in England and Wales is available on their websites.