Guidance

Hold a bird gathering

What counts as a bird gathering, and how to notify APHA.

Applies to England

From 8 November 2021 no gatherings of poultry, galliforme birds or anseriforme birds are permitted. Galliforme birds include pheasants, partridge, quail, chickens, turkeys and guinea fowl.

Anseriforme birds include ducks, geese and swans. The bird gatherings general licence for these types of bird was revoked on 8 November 2021.

Gatherings of all other types of birds except poultry, galliforme and anseriforme birds are permitted, provided that the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has been notified of the gathering at least 7 days before the event and that the gathering meets all the requirements of the general licence.

You could be prosecuted if you do not meet the licence conditions. Your permission to operate under this licence could be suspended or withdrawn.

What counts as a bird gathering

Gatherings include (but are not limited to) bird fairs, markets, shows, sales, exhibitions and some premises used for dealing or internet sales. In addition, vehicles used to transport live birds where the birds are brought together from multiple premises (so called many-to-one or many-to-many activities) are also considered gatherings.

You can read about what counts as a bird gathering in the notes section of the licence.

How to hold a bird gathering

Bird gatherings are not permitted within a disease control zones (which surrounds an infected premises). Bird keepers and businesses can check where disease control zones are in force and where higher risk areas are located on our interactive map.

Outside of disease control zones bird gatherings are only permitted under the Avian Influenza (Preventive Measures) (England) Regulations (S.I. 2006/2701) if licensed. Defra has published a general licence permitting bird gatherings of all other types of birds except poultry, galliforme and anseriforme birds, provided they have been notified to APHA at least 7 days before the event and that the gathering meets all the requirements of the general licence.

General licences are issued by government agencies to provide a legal basis for people to carry out a range of activities. By definition people or organisations do not need to apply for general licence but you are required by law to abide by their terms and conditions.

Definitive requirements for allowed bird gatherings are set out in the bird gatherings general licence. This general licence is in force from 00:01 on the 8 November 2021 until further notice.

Subject to the gathering meeting all the requirements of the bird gatherings general licence, this general licence permits gatherings of all other types of birds except poultry, galliforme and anseriforme birds. However, pigeon racing from Northern Ireland and the EU also needs to comply with the EU regulations for the export of captive birds.

How to notify APHA of a bird gathering

In England you must notify APHA by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301 choosing the relevant options for APHA at least 7 days before a bird gathering.

You’ll need to provide the following information:

  • date (or range of dates) of the gathering
  • location of gathering (full postal address and postcode, and County Parish Holding (CPH) number (if applicable))
  • types and numbers of birds expected
  • purpose of the gathering (for example, show, sale or racing)
  • your name, address and contact phone number, and an email address and mobile number

APHA will notify the local authority about the gathering on your behalf.

Keep records for 3 months

You must keep records of bird gatherings for at least 3 months after each event, including:

  • name, address and contact number of anyone moving birds to and from the gathering
  • types and numbers of birds exhibited, raced, transported, bought or sold at the gathering

APHA or the local authority may ask you for this information. Consult the general licence for definitive requirements on taking and retaining records of bird gathering.

Enforcement

Non-compliance with this general licence constitutes an offence under the Avian Influenza (Preventive Measures) (England) Regulations (S.I. 2006/2701) and on conviction under section 73 of the Animal Health Act 1981 a person may be liable to an unlimited fine and or imprisonment.

Compliance with the bird gatherings general licence is enforced in coordination with APHA by Local Authorities Animal Health Function (LAAHF), which is normally part of the Trading Standards or Environmental Health Service of a local authority. See the postcode tool to find details of how to contact your LAAHF with any reports of non-compliance.

Notifiable avian disease risk

Defra could withdraw or amend the bird gatherings general licence immediately if the risk of the notifiable avian disease risk increases. Further information on the latest disease situation can be found on the avian influenza, Newcastle disease and paramyxovirus guidance.

If you suspect any type of notifiable disease in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

Published 14 May 2015
Last updated 5 November 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect changes to the bird gatherings general licence. From 8 November 2021 no gatherings of poultry, galliforme birds or anseriforme birds are permitted.

  2. Updated to reflect that the new bird gatherings general license is in force from 12:00 on 15 May 2021.

  3. Updated guidance to reflect changes to the bird gatherings general licence.

  4. Updated to reflect that some captive bird gatherings are now permitted.

  5. Updated the guidance under the 'What counts as a bird gathering' heading.

  6. Updated to reflect that bird gatherings are currently not permitted.

  7. Page now available in the Welsh language

  8. Updated licence published: gatherings are not banned in the Higher Risk Areas put in place today. Definition of ‘vehicle’ added to licence.

  9. Updated licence published: gatherings are not banned under the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone arrangements put in place in England today.

  10. Updated notes as the Prevention Zone in certain areas of Lancashire, Cumbria and Merseyside has now been lifted.

  11. Updated with the new general licence which applies from 15 May 2017.

  12. Updated with plans to lift the ban on gatherings, across England from 15 May, except in certain areas of Lancashire and Cumbria.

  13. Updated following the announcement that the ban on poultry gatherings will be lifted on 15 May 2017.

  14. We've added more information about what does or doesn't count as a bird gathering.

  15. We've added some clearer information about what does or doesn't count as a bird gathering.

  16. Added biosecurity advice for bird gathering organisers (licencees) and participants.

  17. Updated following the announcement of a temporary suspension on certain bird gatherings from 20 December 2016.

  18. Removed reference to vet assessment as this is a general licence and is therefore not carried out on a case-by-case-basis.

  19. First published.