An African eagle chick has been bred in captivity for the first time in Scotland – despite almost being chilled to death.
The Verreaux’s eagle, worth £35,000, has been described as a “nightmare” to breed and worldwide attempts have failed time and time again.
Until now only one institution in England – the International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) – has successfully hatched a chick in captivity. At midnight on Wednesday, Barry Blyther at Elite Falconry in Fife made history when they helped a tiny chick break free of its shell.
But the long-anticipated birth almost ended before it had even begun – when faulty equipment began to slowly refrigerate the animal.
The process began five years ago, when Mr Blyther invested thousands of pounds in purchasing a pair of Verreaux’s eagles from Africa.
After a long wait, the pair eventually produced two eggs earlier this year after breeding in their specially-built aviary.
Unfortunately the parents accidentally broke one egg, at which point the remaining one was removed and put into an incubator for 44 days.
When it began to show signs of hatching it was moved to a brooder for the final stages - but, unknown to the falconers, the machine was faulty and was 13C colder than necessary.
After several days of puzzlement, Barry checked the temperature and was shocked to find that they had been accidentally chilling the animal.
He immediately moved it to another brooder, and shortly afterwards helped the chick break free of its egg.
Barry said: “We noticed that the egg wasn’t making the progress it needed in the brooder, which was when we realised something was wrong.
“After checking all the readings it became clear the equipment was faulty - and the chick was chilling to death.
“Because of this, the egg hadn’t made the progress it needed to hatch, and so I had to help it along the way by slowly breaking pieces of the egg off.”
Barry and his partner, Roxanne Peggie, have been feeding the chick every three hours to boost its growth before it is reunited with its parents on Sunday.
The sex of the chick will not be known until it is full-sized at 12-weeks old.