Welney's hand-reared 'rare' godwits reach Portugal

Project Godwit headstarted bird at WWT Steart Marshes Image copyright WWT/Joe Cockram
Image caption The birds are not expected to make the 1,200 mile trip back to the UK to breed this year

Two birds hand-reared by conservationists have been spotted "safe and sound" more than 1,000 miles (1,609 km) from where they were raised.

The black-tailed godwits are among 26 birds hatched in May at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Welney, on the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk border.

The pair have been seen among a flock on the Tagus Estuary in Portugal.

The ground-nesting birds are vulnerable to spring floods and are on the UK's "red-list" for endangered species.

Project Godwit's manager Hannah Ward said: "Bird migration is an amazing feat and it's fraught with dangers.

"It's a huge relief to hear they have both made it to the same spot in Portugal, safe and sound."

It is the first time any of the hand-reared birds have been seen outside the UK.

Image copyright Bob Ellis/WWT
Image caption Conservationists hope the project will increase their knowledge of the species, as well as boost numbers

Project Godwit, which is a joint RSPB and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust scheme, was granted a licence from Natural England to collect 32 eggs.

They were incubated at Welney on the Ouse Washes in a method called "headstarting".

Staff believe it is the first time the method has been used to help a species in decline in the UK.

Image copyright Bob Ellis WWT
Image caption Staff at the Welney centre had to hand-feed the godwit chicks in their first few days

The hand-reared chicks were moved into an enclosed aviary at about three weeks old.

They were ringed and released into the wild in June.

The UK breeding population of black-tailed godwits is down to 50 pairs, the majority of which are found in the Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire and the Ouse Washes.

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