Scottish Owl Centre welcomes birth of rare chick - the first of its kind in the UK

The rare band-bellied Owl chick.
The rare band-bellied Owl chick.
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A Scottish wildlife centre has welcomed the birth of rare owl breed chick - the first of an elusive South American species to be been born in the UK.

The rare band-bellied owl chick is just eight weeks old and is being fiercely protected by its parents at the Scottish Owl Centre in Whitburn, West Lothian.

The fluffy chick with one of its parents.

The fluffy chick with one of its parents.

Staff say a DNA test is yet to be carried out to determine the sex of the baby owl, which is covered in golden fluff and has a black mask fanning out behind its eyes.

Very little is known about the elusive bird species which lives in the wilds of South America, on the slopes of the Andes mountains in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia.

But keepers are hoping to learn more about the owl, which has not yet been named, as it becomes more familiar with its environment.

Staff at the centre got a sneak peek of the bird a few weeks ago when it poked it's head out of the nest before its protective parents ushered it back inside.

Keeper Lauren Walker, 25, said: "I think it wanted to leave the nest much earlier but the parents would not let this happen.

"It came out a few weeks ago but the parents made it go back in. The pair are so protective.

"It has been outside since Sunday morning.

"We will have to get a DNA test to know its sex.

"The parents are dark brown with cream stripes on their bellies.

"The baby is covered in golden fluff.

"It's about 12 inches tall with its fluff but we've not had a chance to weigh it yet.

"It is the first band-bellied owl to be born in the UK and we are so happy to have it here.

"People visiting really enjoy seeing it, they say it's really cute.

"We all wanted to get some champagne to celebrate.

"To feed it we put chicken, mice and rats in the aviary and the parents collect it and give it to the baby."

"Not much is known about the band-bellied owl so it will be interesting to see it grow up here.

"No one knows about their wild habits but we know that they are very difficult to find in the wild.

"They are well camouflaged and there is not many of them to find."