A WILD bird rescue charity has been forced to halt rescues, because of outbreaks of deadly bird flu.

As three cases of bird flu have been confirmed in England local and government vets are urging poultry keepers to be vigilant.

Two separate, unrelated cases in kept poultry and birds were confirmed in England last week and a third case of H5N8 avian flu in captive birds was confirmed on November 11 at a broiler breeder farm in Herefordshire.

A small number of wild birds in south west of England have also been found to have had the disease.

This led on Thursday to an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) being declared across the whole of England to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading. This means it is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.

It follows the risk level of avian influenza incursion in wild birds in great Britain being raised from 'medium' to 'high'.

Nicola Dawes, director of The Owl Sanctuary in Barrow, said: "The birds we currently have in our care are healthy and unaffected, however we are required by law to take a range of bio-security precautions.

"One of the biggest changes for us is, sadly, we will not be able to carry out any wild rescues. If we collected and housed a wild bird with the deadly disease, this could spread to all the other birds in our care.

"We can however continue to provide advice over the phone so please call either myself on 07835 813544 or Paul on 07505 027007 if you are concerned about an owl's welfare.

"You can also message us or contact a veterinary practice."

Anne Abbs, a vet with Paragon Veterinary Practice in Dalston and Penrith, said: "All poultry owners in Cumbria, but particularly those on the coast and near lakes, should be aware of the APHA guidance to protect their flocks.

"Even ‘backyard’ poultry owners can do their bit to protect the national flock by trying to feed their birds in a covered area and remove uneaten/spilled food to deter wild birds and keeping ducks and geese separate from other poultry."

If you find dead wild waterfowl, or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline 03459 335577.