A video circulating on social media of a swan in Belfast’s Waterworks park exhibiting signs of bird flu has caused concerns among members of the public.
The clip, posted on Facebook on Sunday, shows a swan repeatedly spinning round in circles, then dipping its head underwater seemingly uncontrollably.
Since last week we have contacted @belfastcc & @daera_ni regarding Waterworks park.— Cllr Conor Maskey - Wash Your Hands! (@conormaskey) December 6, 2021
It’s clear there is a serious health issue with the swans on site & the response to date has been woeful.
Urgent action is required prioritising health & avoiding the scenes of the last week. pic.twitter.com/R2iCrbKMJd
The user that posted the video commented: “Why is this allowed to happen? A vet needs to be appointed ASAP to euthanize these ill birds.”
He claimed there were four or five swans showing signs of infection at the Waterworks at that time, as well as “multiple dead swans stacked against the portacabins”.
Also posting on Facebook on Sunday, the Debbie Doolitte Wildlife group said it had received "multiple reports of sick or deceased swans and geese in the Belfast Waterworks”.
"As feared the avian flu is spreading through the resident birds at quite a rate. There was also reports of sick geese in Newtownabbey and another near Dundonald,” they stated.
On Saturday, the Department for the Environment confirmed that avian influenza was detected in six wild birds found at the Waterworks, the Harbour Estate in Belfast and at Monlough Lake close to Carryduff.
The latest cases follow the culls of two separate flocks in Northern Ireland suspected of having bird flu.
This included 27,000 ducks being culled after a suspected case in a commercial flock in Co Tyrone as well as 30 birds owned by a hobby keeper in Broughshane, Co Antrim.
The public have been advised that there is little risk to human life, but that anyone that finds a dead wild bird should report it to the Department’s helpline on 0300 200 7840.
The H521 strain of avian influenza is often fatal to birds that contract the disease.
Local SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said he had also contacted Belfast City Council about the issue and in a reply, the council said it is "getting signs put up".
PBP councillor Fiona Ferguson called for a “clear message” from the council.
”It is clearly unacceptable that young children, or anyone, is having to witness birds in such distress as they pass through the park,” she stated.
"Unfortunately, the advice from the council seems to be that there isn't much they can do, beyond removing deceased birds, while the department wants to focus on captive birds and turkey farms. But the impact on local residents in North Belfast and our wild bird population cannot be ignored or deprioritised.
"We will continue to press for urgent action on this issue."
Sinn Fein councillor Conor Maskey said on Twitter that the response to date in dealing with avian flu within the Waterworks has been “woeful”.
A Belfast City Council spokesperson said: “We’re aware of the Avian flu outbreak that has impacted the bird population in Waterworks Park. In line with health and safety guidance from the Public Health Agency, our park wardens are removing any deceased birds from the site.
”The main species of bird affected at the Waterworks are swans. We're continuing to work alongside the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs and the Public Health Agency (DAERA) in response to this issue. We would appeal to park users to follow public health guidance to avoid contact with wild birds and not pick up any sick or dead birds.”
A DAERA spokesman said: “DAERA collects dead birds on occasion, for Avian Influenza surveillance purposes to help us understand how the disease is distributed geographically.
“Where surveillance is not required, the routine collection of dead birds rests with the landowner depending on the location. DAERA contacted the landowner yesterday to clarify its role.
“Sick birds are the responsibility of the landowner and members of the public should contact whoever owns the land the birds are found on."