Avian influenza is a contagious disease of birds widely spread in wild fowl (namely ducks) and most feared in domestic birds, which may be infected with the highly pathogenic strains of the virus (HPAI). Some mammals, including human beings, may also be affected and die. Specific tools for the diagnosis of HPAI were not available before 1955, but since then more than 25 outbreaks were reported throughout the world, with an unusual incidence in Asia and Europe after 2003. However, before 1955 and since the Antiquity, numerous important outbreaks have been reported in Europe in domestic or wild birds, with high morbidity and mortality rates. Such outbreaks involved either poultry (including domestic geese or ducks) or wild birds (water fowl or land fowl). As far as the latter were concerned, some authors of the Middle-Ages attributed the large-scale deaths of birds to pitched battles between different avian species. Many details are given on the places and dates of these outbreaks, as well as on their epidemiological features. The author recalls the need for strengthening the surveillance and control of HPAI to minimize any risk of pandemic following a genetic re-assortment of avian and human influenza viruses.