• C4PMC

Hen Harriers dying from avian flu


Avian flu has decimated wild birds across the country since the beginning of the year, but birds of prey have suffered particularly badly.

A water company employee reported finding up to ‘twenty buzzards dead’ near a reservoir in the borders earlier in the year, and many vets across the country have refused to take in any more dead birds for testing as avian flu deaths become increasingly common.

Earlier this month two hen harriers were confirmed dead in Yorkshire, with both birds testing positive for the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

The deaths of the hen harriers are a disappointment for many, not least the moorland managers and gamekeepers who have been working so hard to increase their numbers over the last few years. Despite these deaths hen harrier numbers are now at record highs across the country; but the hard work needs to continue.

Since the start of the year, other wild birds to have died from bird flu across the country include red kites, mute swans, gulls, Canada geese, rare roseate terns as well as other terns, kestrels and common buzzards, and smaller birds such as blackbirds.

A spokesperson for the Animal and Plant Health Agency, part of DEFRA, said: “We can confirm a number of wild bird deaths in North Yorkshire, including in two hen harriers that have tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 collected from the Ingleton and Colsterdale areas of North Yorkshire respectively.” The Animal and Plant Agency, formerly known as the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, says birds of prey are susceptible to avian flu and can be infected if they are exposed. APHA carries out year-round avian influenza surveillance of dead wild birds submitted via public reports and warden patrols. As part of its on-going surveillance for avian influenza, there have been multiple findings of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in wild birds from sites across the UK in addition to a single finding of HPAI H5N8 in a wild bird.