At the start of each flying season, the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary staff are always vigilant for an opportunity to increase the range and diversity of the centre's captive bred birds.
The wider the variety of accessible birds, the more bird knowledge visitors can acquire and the deeper their understanding of the conservation issues facing owls and other birds of prey becomes.
A recent addition to the sanctuary is a Siberian Eagle Owl chick - a somewhat misleading moniker as the “chick” arrived at the centre at 4 weeks old and already weighing in at 1lb 5oz! Quite a hefty youngster!
Once mature, this owl will fly in one of the thrice daily demonstrations at the sanctuary at a weight of around 9lb and demonstrate its spectacular flying technique and dramatic presence to visitors.
Thought by many to be the most attractive of the Eagle Owls, the Siberian is lighter in colour than the European eagle Owl with distinctive orangey-yellow eyes.
Although these owls can be found over a wide area in the wild, ranging from central Siberia, throughout the Altai mountains and into Northern Mongolia, they are increasingly scarce and locally endangered, due mainly to hunting.
The new arrival has been named Tura, alluding to the river running through the owl’s native habitat.
The River Tura flows eastwards from the central Ural mountains into the Tobol River and was historically important as the main entry point for goods and travellers into Siberia.
Regular visitors to the sanctuary will be privy to Tura’s gradual training regime which will transform her from a clumsy, awkward youngster into a magnificent and graceful free flying member of the sanctuary “family”.
Initially, she will have soft leather anklets fitted around her legs to enable training to begin - these anklets will be custom made to her own requirements to ensure that they are both comfortable and effective.
Jesses are then attached to the anklets - these leather straps will enable the falconers to hold her gently on the glove whilst acclimatising her to a “free flying” situation.
When she is comfortable to be out on the glove with the falconers, a creance (or long line) will be attached, allowing her to fly freely but securely around the demonstration ground.
Once she is familiar with this territory and flying happily within its perameters, the falconers will allow her to work on her own, with their guidance from a distance.
We trust that Tura’s presence in the displays will serve as a reminder of the impressive and irreplaceable nature of so many of the creatures which are now threatened by human predation.