Reporting dead wild birds

Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.

You should call the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77) if you find:

  • 1 or more dead bird of prey or owl
  • 3 or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese and ducks)
  • 5 or more dead birds of any species

We then collect some of these birds and test them to help us understand how the disease is distributed geographically and in different types of bird.

Calls to the Defra helpline about dead wild birds are triaged and not all birds will be collected. The criteria for which birds are collected are adjusted to increase or decrease the sensitivity of surveillance.

Wild birds are susceptible to a range of diseases and injuries and not all dead birds will have been infected with avian influenza.

Removal and disposal of dead wild birds

If dead wild birds are not needed for avian influenza surveillance purposes and landowners have taken the decision to remove carcasses, it is the landowner’s responsibility to safely arrange disposal of the carcasses.

Landowners are responsible for any costs associated with removal and disposal of dead wild birds. If dead birds are on public land it is the local authority’s responsibility to arrange disposal of the carcasses where removal is warranted.

For dead wild birds not required for surveillance, instructions for how to dispose of small numbers of garden birds at domestic premises can be found below.

Disposal of small numbers of garden birds in household or municipal waste refuse (only for domestic residential premises)

  • 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 wild bird has been picked up, the bag can be turned back on itself and tied, enclosing the dead wild bird within the bag’
  • The bag containing the dead wild bird should then be placed in a second plastic bag (preferably leak proof). Care should be taken not to contaminate the outside of the bag.
  • Remove any gloves or other hand coverings used, by turning them inside out and then place them in the second plastic bag, taking care not to touch the outside of the gloves with bare hands.
  • Tie the second bag closed and dispose of in the normal household waste (general refuse lidded bin outside).
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
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