Bird flu update

There has been another outbreak of bird flu in another turkey farm in Lincolnshire and another in another Pheasant farm in Lancashire.  We are told that bird flu is widespread in wild birds across the country and yet the cases affecting farms are well and truly clumped around commercial farms in two discrete but well-separated areas. That must tell us something about the mechanism of transmission – what?

All three Lincolnshire cases have been at turkey farms.  Not Pheasant farms, or duck farms, or even chicken farms, but all at turkey farms. Is that significant?

Whereas both Lancashire cases have been at Pheasant farms. Is that significant?

The latest Lancashire outbreak has led to another, a third nearby Pheasant farm, having birds culled. 63,000 birds are being culled. This was done because ‘investigators were unable to rule out the presence of H5N8 avian flu at a third farm in Wyre’.  That sounds very odd. Defra hadn’t found evidence for the presence of H5N8 through testing birds – it seems – but decided that birds should be killed anyway. What’s going on?  What does Defra think is going on?

The Hy-Fly Game Hatcheries Ltd has posted a statement on their website.  The business is clearly involved with a variety of game-rearing activities.

Meanwhile, in wild birds, Defra list 10 sites with 19 birds testing positive of 8 species in 2017.  The most recent case was, apparently, a Buzzard in North Yorkshire.  That’s the second Buzzard, and the third raptor which have tested positive in this winter.  However, there are discrepancies between the Defra list and the recent RSPB information on this subject.  The RSPB state that there have been two cases on their reserves this year (which I take to be 2017): a Wigeon at Leighton Moss and a Buzzard on the Somerset Levels. Yet, Defra have only one positive record from Lancashire and that was a Tufted Duck not a Wigeon. Not the most difficult wild birds to tell apart really, are they?






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13 Replies to “Bird flu update”

  1. After their handling of Foot and Mouth I imagine DEFRA are a bit more cautious these days and rightly so. They can at least control domestic birds and their movement. So at least they seem to be doing that. My family is a bit worried and keeping their 5 pet chickens locked inside, the concern is that a case of bird flu would lead to slaughtering all their cattle.

    Since Buzzards scavenge and wild birds / pheasants are affected it is not surprising? But no kites, crows etc? Can bird flu affect some genera more than others? And should wild birds have more resistance than domestic, which may have inadvertently lost resistance through selective breeding?

    I also assume there is some link between where cases have been found and observers. Reserve staff / farmers / game keepers are all presumably on the lookout. There may be more birds affected than we know about in less watched areas?

    1. My concern regarding the pheasants is how many were released or moved that were carriers or that were already incubating the disease ......... Is this is why the third culling has taken place because of movement of stock I wonder .....

    2. I would expect that the difference in reporting of species is purely due to the wish of the people discovering dead birds to report the death and forward the carcass or samples. Few people are going to forward dead crows etc. to DEFRA.
      I commented on Mark's last item about Bird Flu about these linked premises, which also shows my bias:
      ""The flock is estimated to contain approximately 1,000 birds. A number have died."
      Nothing surprising there then, except that the owner did not report the deaths.
      Perhaps that's not surprising either."
      Please also note that in an update on 30th January, DEFRA announced:
      "Continuing investigations and positive test results have now confirmed the presence of H5N8 avian flu at the linked premises." This probably refers to the hatchery.

  2. I understand today, Feb 1st, is the last day of the pheasant shooting season. What I don't understand is the dynamics of pheasant rearing. Why are there so many birds still in captivity? Are they breeding stock for next season or just surplus to requirements for the shoot, what happens to them now? Are they classified as wildlife or livestock?

    1. The birds not yet released are probably for release for off-season shooting. It might be illegal, but it is still ultra common.

      1. Where is your proof of this? You say 'probably' for out of season shooting,you need to show proof, why can you not buy or find pheasant for sale in the shops out of season. Breeding stock.

    2. Evening, Pheasants in pens this time of year will have been "caught up" for Breeding stock for next season.

      1. Edward - so they are wild birds that have been mixing with wild birds in whose populations H5N8 virus is apparently circulating. Thanks very much for that clarification.

    3. I think they are breeding stock of pheasants, red legs and mallard. Hifly are one of the biggest suppliers of game birds for stocking in late summer and have a number of farms in that area. They are certainly livestock.

  3. The Hy-Fly Game Hatcheries ltd website (link in Mark's blog) gives some precise answers to some of the questions I posed above, just checkout under 'Pheasants'.


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