Leeds & West Yorkshire

Spoonbills hatch three chicks at RSPB Fairburn Ings

Spoonbills (stock image) Image copyright RSPB
Image caption Spoonbills have not nested regularly in the UK since the 1700s, said the RSPB

Rare protected birds have hatched three chicks at a bird reserve near Leeds, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has confirmed.

The presence of breeding spoonbills at the RSPB's Fairburn Ings reserve in West Yorkshire had been kept secret.

Spoonbills have not nested regularly in the UK since the 1700s but are now returning.

There are about 20 birds wintering in the country and this is the first hatching in the north, the RSPB said.

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There are fewer than five pairs of the tall, white, heron-like birds breeding annually in the UK, according to the charity.

The four adult birds at Fairburn Ings, near Castleford, have black legs and an enormous spoon-shaped bill used to sweep through the water from side to side when scouring for food.

Image copyright RSPB
Image caption Spoonbills are of conservation concern because of lack of suitable habitats

Darren Starkey, of RSPB said: "To see a successful spoonbill nest is a very special event.

"Although we have occasional spoonbill sightings each year at Fairburn Ings, some travelling from as far as the Netherlands and Spain, none have successfully nested before."

The new chicks are currently hidden away in deep vegetation but should be more visible when they fledge and begin to fly, the charity said.

Spoonbills are of conservation concern because of lack of suitable habitats, water pollution, and drainage of wetlands for farming and tourism.

Long-legged water birds are moving north as climate change dries out their traditional nesting habitats in southern Europe, said the RSPB.

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