For us here at the Sanctuary however, the most exciting herald of spring is the arrival of our first newborn chicks. At this point in time we have no idea how many young our residents may be expecting, but the signs are looking good. Rheia our European Eagle Owl has definitely produced 3 owlets and there are also suspicions that our Malasian Wood Owls may have had young, but without entering their aviary and risking upset, it’s not yet possible to tell for sure.
What we do know with absolute certainty is that one of our Lanner Falcons ‘Lady’ laid four eggs, one of which was fertile. Lanner falcon eggs are slightly smaller than chicken eggs and are a mottled, reddish-brown colour. Incubation normally takes about 33 days, after which the chicks are born covered in fluffy, white down feathers and weighing around 2 oz. Lady is 13 years old, which considering her natural lifespan would be 12 to 15 years, means she has done really well to have a chick at all. Despite her age though, she is a relatively inexperienced mum and could possibly turn on her hatchling, so the falconers have elected to take the chick away just for a week or so. This gives the chick a chance to grow a bit and gain some strength before going back to mum, who is then more likely to be able to cope and rear her baby successfully.
At only one day old, this baby Lanner is carefully fed by hand
Of course it’s impossible to say at this stage whether the youngster is male or female, but it’s certainly a feisty littl’un and remarkably vocal about being hungry! At just one day old it was lifting its head up really strongly, demanding to be fed and voraciously gobbling down the proffered food.
Peregrine falcons usually stay in the nest for about 6 weeks, when they will make their first attempts at flying. Once they have fledged, they are still dependent on their parents for around four weeks until they can hunt for themselves.
It is truly inspiring to witness these first signs of new life here at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. In the words of the immortal Bard ‘April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.’