Above: And then there were two! Rishi has been joined by Boris. Rishi was the National Centre for Birds of Prey’s first chick of 2020. Both were hand-reared for a week before being reintroduced to their parents Photo: NCBP


FOLLOWING THE announcement that a Steller’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) was the first chick of 2020 to hatch at the National Centre for Birds of Prey (NCBP) in Helmsley, Yorkshire (see News, April 15 issue), a second chick arrived on March 26.

The centre has been saved from complete closure by the government’s job-retention scheme payments for furloughed staff and, in recognition of that, the chicks have been named Rishi and Boris after the chancellor and prime minister.

The fertile eggs were removed from the nest and incubated, to prevent the adults from eating the hatchlings. They were hand-reared for a week after hatching on hand-fed chopped rat, three times a day, before being reintroduced to their parents.

Steller’s sea eagles are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and are the largest eagle in the world. These chicks will grow from about 100g at birth, into adults weighing up to 7kg. The NCBP is believed to be the only centre in the UK breeding Steller’s sea eagles.

Charlie Heap, the NCBP’s director, described the reintroduction: “The parents have been sitting on dummy eggs. We leave one dummy egg with them, so they still have something recognisable to brood, and take the other dummy out and swap it for two hungry babies.

“Mum was great. She came back to the nest ledge, went down on her hocks, balled her feet up and shuffled over them and brooded them.

“It was an amazing thing to watch – through the spy hole. Mum is hyper-possessive, hyper-aggressive and massive!”


THE National Centre for Birds of Prey is closed due to coronavirus, but the website is up and running if you wish to buy experience vouchers, Winter Owl Evening tickets, gift vouchers and bird adoptions. Every penny will go towards getting the NCBP through this challenging time.

For more information, please visit: www.ncbp.co.uk

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