THE bird team at the Hawk Conservancy Trust is celebrating the hatching of a Hooded Vulture, which is one of the world’s most threatened species of bird of prey.

At one month old, the chick hatched in a quiet aviary away from public view with even the bird team giving these very secretive birds privacy and monitoring progress only via cameras set up to watch the nest.

Breeding programme coordinator and deputy head of living collection, Tom Morath, said: “With these vultures typically laying just one egg and only once a year everyone here is extremely excited about our new arrival. We won’t know its sex until we’re able to complete a first routine health check, then the chick will be named – something our followers and supporters may be able to help us with.

“For now, though, the chick will remain with its parents Vinnie and Nougat for about three months before moving on from the breeding aviary and into another vulture aviary. This next important step is where our chick will start to socialise with other vultures and learn the complex hierarchy of being a social species of bird of prey just as a wild vulture would after fledging." 

READ MORE: Artistic family showcase their talents on the high seas and in new exhibition

Andover Advertiser: The Hooded Vulture at the Hawk Conservancy TrustBirds hatched in the breeding programme are particularly important because they represent vital and substantial progress towards creating a sustainable safety-net population. Management of such populations is important because they can represent the survival of a species if it becomes extinct in the wild. Should the unthinkable happen, chicks like this will be vital for future conservation efforts and reintroduction to the wild, once the threats have been minimised.

It’s not just in Hampshire that the Hawk Conservancy Trust is making great progress to help tackle the major population decline of the Hooded Vulture, which now is sadly listed as Critically Endangered, with rapidly decreasing populations across their African range. Over the last 30 years Hooded Vulture numbers have declined by around 83 per cent.

In addition to this breeding programme in the UK, the trust has been active in research projects on Hooded Vultures in South Africa.

The ecology of the species in southern Africa was poorly understood because, in contrast to Hooded Vultures in West Africa which are often commensal with humans and easily observed, the Hooded Vulture in southern Africa is elusive, secretive in its breeding habits and primarily in areas with low human populations.

SEE ALSO: Netflix star visits Hawk Conservancy Trust and meets endangered species

Since 2016 the trust’s conservation and research team have undertaken fieldwork in Kruger National Park and Mapungubwe National Park to get a fuller understanding of the characteristics of nest sites, determine breeding success and estimate the population size – but also collect evidence of the many threats to the population.

Dr Campbell Murn, head of conservation, research and education at the trust, is committed to conserving birds of prey and their habitats. He said: “It is vital that we work to conserve these important species both in the wild through research and conservation projects, as well as here at the trust through breeding programmes. Vultures are one of the most threatened groups of birds on the planet, and are an incredibly important part of the ecosystems where they live. Were they to become extinct, their disappearance will likely have major ecological consequences that we do not yet fully appreciate." 

The Hawk Conservancy Trust is dedicated to the research and conservation of birds of prey both in the UK and overseas and utilises income from its visitor centre near Andover, to fund projects such as the Hooded Vulture research. Visitors can experience vultures and other rare birds of prey up close, watch world-class flying displays in three completely different arenas or simply meander through 22 acres of woodland and wildflower meadow.