July 21, 2024

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Footage reveals ‘miracle chick’ in flight

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By Victoria Gill@vic_gillScience correspondent, BBC News

White-tailed eagles: Footage reveals ‘miracle chick’ in flight

Footage captured from a boat off the Isle of Mull shows a “miracle” white-tailed eagle chick in flight, after it was nursed back to health by two unusually caring parents.

In an unprecedented display of extended eagle parenting, the two white-tailed parents skipped this year’s breeding season to continue to tend to their year-old offspring.

The youngster’s wing was broken when the nest fell to the ground during unseasonably wild weather last year.

The footage shows a bulge in the bird’s wing – apparently a healed broken bone.

Mull’s RSPB officer, Dave Sexton, who described the bird as a “miracle chick”, said: “We normally think of eagles as ‘hard-wired’ and unemotional but clearly there might be another side to their nature.”

Martin Keivers An injured juvenile white-tailed eagle in a nest on the Isle of Mull, watched over by one of its parents Martin Keivers

The injured juvenile (left) is still being cared for by its parents

It is a story that had a stormy start, when the chick badly injured its left wing last July after its nest was blown down.

The young, injured eagle finally took to the skies in the autumn, but Dave Sexton described its flight as “wobbly”.

The new footage, captured by wildlife photographer Gary Jones, shows a visible lump in its wing – probably a healed broken bone.

RSPB officer Dave spotted the juvenile this spring – alive and well and in a new nest in an area owned by North West Mull Community Woodland.

The fully-grown chick was being fed fish by its parents, caring behaviour that the eagle expert described as “unprecedented” for the birds.

“In 30 years of watching them, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

“I’ve also consulted with other eagle experts at home and abroad, and so far no-one else has reported this kind of extended parenting behaviour for an injured chick.”

Ashley James An injured juvenile white-tailed eagle takes flight - with a visible bulge in its left wingAshley James

Experts think the visible bulge in the young eagle’s wing is a healed broken bone

White-tailed eagles are the UK’s largest birds of prey – with wingspans that can reach 2.4m. Their chicks normally hatch in April and are fed in the nest until they fledge in July. By October, most young will disperse and start to fend for themselves.

“They wander far and wide until they’re five years old and start to look for a mate and a territory of their own,” Dave explained. “If an immature bird was to reappear near its nesting parents or any other pair the following year, it would likely be aggressively chased away. That’s why this is so exceptional.

For now, Dave said, he and other local eagle-watchers are enjoying watching this “unusual” family doing what they want to do and caring for their youngster.

“I’d still describe its flight as ‘wonky’ at best,” he told BBC News. “But you have to admire its will to survive against the odds – with a little helping hand from mum and dad.

“I loved white-tailed eagles before,” he added. “Now I think I love them just a little bit more.”

Iain Erskine A white-tailed eagle in flightIain Erskine

A white-tailed eagle in flight

2024-07-04 10:00:25

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