Avian influenza outbreak - specific advice to all involved with wild gamebirds in Scotland


As you will be aware, due to an increased risk of incursion of avian influenza (bird flu) for wild birds, gamebirds, poultry and other captive birds within the UK, an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was declared by Scottish Ministers, covering the whole of Scotland, on 17 October 2022. Similar legislation was enacted across all UK administrations.

The AIPZ introduced measures that made it a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to follow strict mandatory biosecurity measures in order to contain and eradicate the disease.

Subsequently a risk assessment commissioned by the Scottish Government in collaboration with the UK Government and Welsh Government confirmed that at present, while avian influenza virus continues to circulate in wild birds across GB at unprecedented levels, the catching up and movement of wild gamebirds could include infected birds. New rules introduced on 09 January 2022 mean that recently caught up wild pheasants cannot be moved for 21 days. This will minimise the risk of spreading infection onward to new premises. The keeper must keep a record of the date of catching up, the number of birds caught up each day, and any deaths. The 21-day standstill applies from the date the last bird was caught up.

Following feedback from stakeholders and government colleagues, and in light of continued outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza within the UK, we recognised a need to issue the following important outbreak-specific advice to all involved with wild pheasants in Scotland.


Biosecurity means simple procedures or steps you can take to prevent disease. The risk of bird flu in the UK from wild birds never disappears completely and so good biosecurity should be incorporated into daily practice, but during an outbreak period it is vital to protect your birds. An outbreak of bird flu at any size game or poultry establishment can have a profound impact on the commercial game and poultry sector through both the introduction of movement restrictions and temporary loss of exports with other countries.

This biosecurity guidance includes details of measures that should be taken in the current AIPZ and provides specific advice for game bird keepers. Complete the biosecurity self-assessment checklist to ensure you are complying with the mandatory biosecurity requirements.

Legal Requirement

As of 09 January 2022 there is now a legal requirement within the AIPZ that wild pheasants  caught up for the purpose of restocking supplies of game  must not be moved until a minimum of 21 days from the date of catching-up of the last bird has elapsed. Exceptions to this are for those movements which are direct and licenced by a veterinary inspector which may be subject to conditions.

risk assessment by the Animal Plant Health Agency has found there is a high risk that birds taken  from the wild could be infected with avian influenza, and by catching  them up and bringing them back to a farm/shoot/estate, this could infect the birds that are already there.  Caught up pheasants are defined as poultry.  Therefore, if disease is confirmed, this would result in a new infected premises. It is on this basis that all catching up activities are not recommended whilst the AIPZ measures are still in effect. To mitigate against the spread of disease from caught up wild pheasants  the measures in the declaration for the AIPZ have been amended to introduce a 21-day standstill period (except under licence) for wild pheasants caught between 9 January and 28 February 2023.

Once pheasants are caught up and the pop hole is closed they become captive birds and are subject to the measures laid out in the AIPZ. Although there is no mandatory requirement to house birds in Scotland the AIPZ requires that all keepers of poultry or other captive birds with outdoor range areas to:

  • fence any outdoor range area to keep the poultry or other captive birds within the outdoor range area
  • actively manage the outdoor range area to ensure that the outdoor range area is not contaminated with feathers or faecal material from wild birds, and take all reasonable steps to remove any feathers or faecal material from wild birds that may be present
  • ensure feed and water are kept indoors, and poultry or other captive birds are fed indoors or under a covered area, which sufficiently discourages the landing of wild birds and thereby prevents contact by wild birds with the feed or water of the poultry or other captive birds
  • take measures to discourage wild birds, in particular gulls and wild waterfowl, from entering the outdoor range area and that wild birds are not attracted to the vicinity of the outdoor range area, in particular to open or standing water
  • ensure carcases of wild birds are removed from the outdoor range area
  • undertake regular cleaning and disinfecting of all concrete walkways, paths and similar surfaces to which poultry or other captive birds and wild birds have access.

This recommendation holds even greater weight for premises that fall within geographical areas deemed at particular high risk to avian influenza (HRAs). Check if your premises falls within one of these areas by using our interactive map (please note the ‘layers’ functionality button top right on this interactive screen to add HRAs to the map).

Register Your Birds

There is a legal requirement for all poultry keepers with 50 or more birds to register their premises on the Great Britain Poultry Register – this includes game keepers. The voluntary registration of premises with fewer than 50 birds is highly encouraged – particularly if you are in, or close to, a higher risk area.

General Advice

It should be noted that this is general advice for those whose activities do not fall within Protection and Surveillance Zones associated with an outbreak premises, within which specific legal regulations apply.

It is also worth noting that catching up gamebirds is only legal until 28th February in Scotland.

Avian influenza is a notifiable disease by law. The public in Great Britain are being advised that if they find:

  • a single dead bird of prey,
  • three dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), or
  • five or more dead wild birds of any other species

at the same place at the same time, they should report them to GB’s National online reporting system operated by Defra. If people wish to submit a report without providing contact details, then the GB telephone helpline should be used: 03459 33 55 77. They must be 18 or over to use this service to report dead wild birds.

Know the signs of bird flu in kept birds, which include loss of appetite, swollen heads, respiratory problems and multiple unexpected deaths. If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by contacting your local APHA officeFailure to do so is an offence.

Bird flu and its consequences can certainly impact game management and shooting, but it is also true that game managers and shooters are in a good position to detect and report outbreaks. Please be vigilant and report any concerns.

Scottish Government 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.

Scottish Government guidance on avian influenza can be found at:


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