Bird flu is killing some of UK's most revered birds, data shows

Credit: PA

Bird flu is indiscriminate and killing some of our most revered and majestic birds.

This year alone five sea eagles (Britain’s largest bird of prey), two golden eagles and seven great skuas have been found dead and tested positive for avian flu. 

The true scale of destruction is hard to determine as weekly data only reveals tested birds, but it gives a grim insight into the species affected. 

The number of eagles testing positive is seven times higher than 2021, when only one bird was found with the disease, and data from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) suggests that no eagles were found with bird flu between 2016 and 2020. 

Two golden eagles with avian flu have been found dead. Credit: AP

Two of the dead sea eagles were discovered in Hampshire where they’d been reintroduced as part of project on the South Coast.

Due to avian flu, Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation who manage the project halted this year's planned introduction of chicks to the Isle of Wight.

The organisations say: “We were due to translocate the next cohort of chicks to the Isle of Wight.

"However the worsening situation with avian influenza poses a considerable risk to white-tailed eagles – which can contract the virus by eating infected carcasses – meant that we felt the most responsible approach was not to translocate any chicks this year, particularly as fieldwork indicates it is a poor breeding year for white-tailed eagles.”

A National Trust ranger pictured in July clearing deceased birds from Staple Island off the coast of Northumberland Credit: PA

Swans, geese, gannets and a harrier have tested positive for bird flu in the last week alone.

From Falkirk through to Pembrokeshire and Wiltshire, birds are being found with the disease across the UK.

The threat level from avian flu is so high that farming organisations, such as the NFU, are calling on the government to bring in a compulsory housing order for poultry and captive birds across the country, extending restrictions that exist already in the east of England to the whole nation.

The British Poultry Council say it is necessary “as soon as possible to prioritise the wellbeing of our farmers, the viability of their businesses and the safety of all birds”.

Avian flu continues to wreak and as winter sets in, the signs suggest it is gaining pace threatening not just wild birds - but those in captivity too. 

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