A Helping Hand

On occasion, it is necessary for falconers at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary to step in and offer surreptitious assistance to some of our breeding birds. This was the case recently with two pairs of Harris Hawks.

In the first instance, female Buffy laid two eggs on the floor of the aviary that she shares with her partner Larch. As there was little chance of these eggs hatching successfully without the benefit of nesting material, the falconers needed to intervene. Whilst it was important to interfere with the eggs as little as possible, it was possible to create a manmade nest out of conifer branches in the same location that Buffy had chosen. The eggs were carefully replaced in the new nest and happily, Buffy returned to sit on them.

Buffy settles into her new conifer nest

Buffy settles into her new conifer nest

In the mean time, Willow and Henry, two of our winter team of Harris Hawks, also built a nest and laid a clutch of four eggs. This is the first time that these young birds have produced eggs and sadly, due to their inexperience, they quickly broke two of them. So in order to protect the remaining two eggs, the falconers were forced to remove them from the nest and incubate them artificially. The eggs hatched successfully and after two or three days, they needed a surrogate mum!

The falconers knew just the bird to engage in rearing these chicks - Buffy’s track record in this department is excellent. She had also been sitting on her own eggs in the conifer nest for some time with no indication that they were fertile, so her two dubious eggs were consequently removed from the nest and replaced with Willow’s young chicks - a win win situation all round.

But the story had an even better ending - Willow and Henry since laid a second clutch and have been left to raise them without interference!