By Paul Torpey

Wildlife experts fear panic-stricken Enfield residents are attempting to offload their feathered friends on to animal sanctuaries amid the threat of bird flu.

Barry Smitherman, of Trent Park Animal Rescue Centre, which houses large numbers of birds, has recently been approached by people offering him birds.

Despite callers offering other explanations for wanting to part company with their pets, Mr Smitherman believes the calls are directly connected to last month's discovery of a dead swan infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus in Scotland.

He said: "I reassure the callers and tell them we haven't got the room for any more birds at the moment.

"From the research I've done, and what I've read, I think there's a low risk here. I'm really not worried unless it ever comes within a ten-mile radius of Enfield.

"Some newspapers have blown the story up into something really menacing. The correct information might reassure people."

The RSPCA has reported a national increase in people dumping their birds and a spokeswoman has urged Enfield's bird-owners to remain calm.

She said: "We'd advise people not to panic and not to abandon their birds or hand them over to people because there's no need.

"Bird flu hasn't reached Enfield, and there's no reason why it should."

A helpline set up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has received thousands of calls from people reporting dead birds.

No birds have tested positive for H5N1 since the dead whooper swan was discovered near Cellardyke, in Scotland.

It is possible the bird may have caught the disease abroad and died before being washed ashore.

Enfield Council officers are continuing their daily checks of the borough's parks but have found no dead birds.

A spokesman for the council said: "We're vigilant and will remain on full alert."

The Government's chief scientific adviser Sir David King has said the chances of a bird flu virus mutating into a pandemic strain dangerous to humans were very low'.

Enfield Primary Care Trust has prepared a pandemic influenza plan.