A staff member helping to stop the spread of avian flu

Help us to tackle the Avian Flu outbreak at Mersehead

  • 3-4000

    Svalbard barnacle geese are estimated to have died
  • 10%

    Of the Solway barnacle goose population lost to Avian Flu
  • 700+

    Dead geese removed from RSPB Mersehead in one day

An unprecedented outbreak with devastating effects.

A bird lying on a beach which has died from avian flu

Right now, the UK is experiencing an unprecedented outbreak of Avian Flu which has already killed thousands of wild birds.

The Solway Firth, on the border between England and Scotland, is currently the worst affected area, with 3-4000 barnacle geese dying so far this winter. This is around 10% of the population that migrates there annually from their breeding ground in Svalbard in arctic Norway.

Geese have been observed falling from the sky in distress, and lines of dead birds are washing up on the beach after they perish while roosting out on the mudflats. 

Dead birds are being found by staff across RSPB Mersehead, with over 700 removed so far and the numbers rising fast. The safe removal of the carcasses is costly and time-consuming. We urgently need more staff to aid with the clean-up and to help to reduce the risk of the virus spreading to more healthy birds.

Help us to contain the outbreak

A bird which has died from avian flu

The birds affected have mostly been ducks, geese and swans, but gulls, birds of prey and curlews have also been affected. Concerns are building that it could spread to other local populations such as lapwing and wigeon.

Worryingly, the worst could still be to come.

The ‘classic’ Avian Flu pattern is for the outbreak to peak in early winter, followed by a second peak later in the season that can be more deadly. We must act now to do all that we can to limit the spread of this disease across wild bird populations. Whilst the Solway Firth is currently experiencing the brunt of the outbreak in the UK, it is possible that serious impacts could become a more widespread issue across the UK.

Please do not touch any sick or dead birds. If you find any dead waterfowl (swans, ducks, geese), any gulls or birds of prey, please report them to the Defra helpline 03459 335577 or in Northern Ireland to DAERA on 0300 200 7840. Please also see our dedicated page for Avian Influenza updates.

If you can, please help us do everything we can to reduce the risk of spread and help waterbirds at this time

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could help us remove carcasses to help reduce the risk of the virus spreading
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could fund PPE for a staff member or volunteer
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could help the RSPB get support to clear areas of high virus spread
A flock of barnacle geese - they look as if they're flying right at you

Please help us contain the outbreak