A Fife falconry centre have shared a video clip of the precious moment a miracle baby martial eagle was hatched.
The eaglet was born at Elite Falconry‘s Cluny Mains farm facility and arrived as a pleasant surprise to all concerned.
“Historically, the first egg laid each year by the mother has been infertile,” said head falconer Barry Blyther.
“Despite giving the benefit of the doubt, we expected this one to be infertile. In an aviary, the egg is very vulnerable to being broken. The first ten days of incubation are crucial. That first egg, despite expectations, has hatched.”
What’s even more anomalous is that the bird hatched during a cold Scottish winter.
“There is a long way to go and the bird has some tricky days ahead of it,” said said Mr Blyther.
“Martial Eagles tend to breed at almost any time of year across Africa. Their status in the wild is getting poorer and poorer. When you bring them here, they have this disconcerting habit of breeding in our deepest mid-winter, which is problematic.
“Not long ago they were a species of little concern, then their status changed to ‘vulnerable’ and now they’re up to threatened on the IUCN bird list.”
Another factor which will be crucial in the eaglet’s infancy is the dedication of its father.
“With the birds we’ve paired together, all the female wants to do is brood and be a mum. The dad’s duty is to brood the youngster when mum’s off having a stretch, a wash and a feed, but this one doesn’t.
“If dad doesn’t step up to the plate then we’ve got a major issue on our hands.
“His input will be critical in the chick’s survival when it is returned to the parents. That would normally be at perhaps three days old, but we’ll hold off a few more days until the chick is a little more robust, thermo-regulating and when the forecast very cold and stormy weather has passed.”
The centre offers 40+ birds for the public to pre-book places and see all year-round. They offer ‘birds of prey experience days’, which are critical to its winter survival fund.
“Most of our birds pick up a name somewhere along the line,” said Mr Blyther. “We tend to resist the urge to name them because we can get quite attached and it’s much harder to bear if they die.
“There’s a second egg that’s yet to hatch and we’re excited that for the first time ever we may have a pair of martial eagles by the end of winter.”
Facts for the eagle-eyed
• Martial Eagles are the largest species of eagle in Africa and the fifth largest in the world
• They’re enormous. Females can have a wingspan of well over 7ft
• The South African population of the species is down 20% over the last three generations of birds
• The majority of losses are due to wind turbine and power line collisions
• A martial Eagle in the wild typically produces one egg every two years