DOZENS of birds have been culled at a Paisley park's mini-zoo after it was hit by an outbreak of a rare virus.

Chickens, ducks, bantams, geese and guinea fowl were all humanely destroyed today as part of protection measures put in place at the Nature Corner attraction within Barshaw Park.

Renfrewshire Council took action to protect poultry flocks following the death of a number of wild birds at the site.

The pigeon paramyxo virus has been identified as the cause of the deaths of several birds found at Nature Corner.

Council chiefs say the virus carries no risk to public health but can have significant impact if it transfers to the poultry industry, where it is known as "Newcastle Disease".

The last UK outbreak of Newcastle Disease was in East Lothian in 2006 and resulted in over 17,000 birds being culled.

Council staff have been working closely with senior vets from the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) in a bid to manage and control the virus.

Nature Corner was immediately closed as a precaution and biosecurity measures put in place to minimise any spread of the virus.

However, tests revealed the virus had already been transmitted to the resident dove population within Nature Corner.

The priority of APHA senior vets was to prevent the virus transferring to poultry species within Nature Corner and potentially impacting on the national poultry flock.

Their advice was that the council arrange for the poultry birds at Nature Corner to be humanely and professionally euthanised as a matter of urgency.

This morning, all 23 poultry birds were humanely culled.

Council chiefs have said that, as non-poultry species, the remaining 55 birds, including pigeons and other doves, as well as parakeets and a peacock, did not present any risk and will remain in Nature Corner, where they will continue to be looked after.

Nature Corner will have to remain closed for a minimum of 60 days after no further disease is identified, to ensure that the virus cannot be transmitted further.

A council spokesman said Nature Corner will then be restocked with a range of species that will provide interest to visitors before it re-opens to the public.

He added: β€œThe public can be assured that every step was taken to manage the necessary culling process in a humane manner.

"It is important to be clear that there was no risk to the general public, park users or other plant and animal species.

"Obviously, no-one wants to have to carry out a cull but the advice from senior government vets was clear – Newcastle Disease can devastate national poultry flocks and it was crucial we act to prevent an outbreak.”