April, 2006

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bird flu updates

This blog will be updated with the latest news on the avian influenza (bird flu) situation.
  • Bird flu outbreak in chickens in Norfolk

    The government has announced an outbreak of bird flu on a chicken farm in Dereham, Norfolk.  

    Current information from Defra suggests that this is an H7 virus, and that it is likely to be a low pathogenicity form of the disease. If so, it is a different disease to the H5N1 virus found in the dead whooper swan at Cellardyke. Low pathogenicity would mean that it will not be as virulent as a high pathogenicity virus. There have been no reports of the disease affecting any wild bird and the source of the infection is apparently unknown. 

    Confirmation of the strain type is expected within the next 24 hours.  

    A number of chickens have died, and the affected flock is to be slaughtered, in accordance with the government’s strategy for the control of a notifiable disease in poultry. Strict biosecurity measures have been implemented on the farm and movement restrictions will be imposed in the immediate vicinity of the incident, dependent on further test results to type the virus. 

  • Scottish swan identified as a whooper

    Government officials today confirmed that the H5N1 positive swan discovered in Cellardyke, Scotland was a whooper swan, not as previously thought a mute swan.

    Initial identification had been hampered by the advanced state of decay of the carcass and the species was only confirmed through DNA profiling.

    Whooper swans are migratory. The Icelandic breeding population winters in north-west Europe, including Britain and Ireland, the Low Countries and the Baltic. H5N1 has been confirmed in several whooper swans in the Baltic during February and March.

    It seems plausible that the bird found in Scotland may have originated in this region and was attempting to migrate back to Iceland to breed, before becoming too sick to continue and alighting on the sea.

    If this is the case, then it may be an isolated incident. However, it would be wise at this stage, not to dismiss the alternative theory that the swan was wintering in the UK (either in Fife or elsewhere) and contracted the virus locally from another species of waterfowl.

    For this reason, the current restrictions should be kept in place and further surveillance of wild birds carried out.
  • RSPB reserves closest to the outbreak

    The Scottish Executive has now set up a 3km 'protection zone' around Cellardyke, where the dead swan was found, and a 10 km 'surveillance zone' around that. The Scottish Executive have also set up a 2,500 sq km ‘wild bird risk area’, stretching along the East coast, around the site of the outbreak. Within these three areas, all poultry are to be brought indoors, and there will be increased surveillance of wild bird populations.

    This ‘wild bird risk area’ includes our Vane Farm, Strathbeg and Loch of Kinnordy Nature Reserves. In the light of recent events in the area, the RSPB is carrying out daily surveillance of these reserves. All our nature reserves remain open, and they are still welcoming visitors – there is no need to stop visiting the countryside.

    After the dramatic news of H5N1 being detected in the UK, many people are understandably alarmed if they find a dead bird. If you do find a sick or dead bird, the following advice has been issued by Defra: If you find one or more dead swans/wild fowl (ducks and geese); more than 3 dead birds of the same species or more than 5 dead birds of different species, in the same place, you should contact the Defra Helpline (08459 33 55 77). 

    Currently the Helpline is available between the following hours Monday - Friday 6 am to 10 pm and Saturday - Sunday 6 am to 10 pm. You will be asked for details of your finding and its location. If the dead bird is a single, small garden, or wild bird then you do not need to call Defra. 

    Please see 'The bird breeding season begins' and 'Your questions answered' for more information by clicking on the links to the left.