Rare crane chick 'first to hatch at nature reserve for 500 years'

Newly hatched crane chick, the first to be born at Wicken Fen in at least 120 years.
Newly hatched crane chick, the first to be born at Wicken Fen in at least 120 years.
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A rare common crane chick that hatched at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire is believed to be the first born at the site for more than 500 years, the National Trust has said.

It is the first time a chick has hatched at the site since the trust acquired the nature reserve in 1899 and started species records, and experts believe it could actually be the first chick to be born at the reserve in centuries.

Conservationists said last year was the most successful year for common cranes in the UK since the 17th century.

Martin Lester, countryside manager at Wicken Fen, said: "UK cranes typically nest in wetland habitats using materials found in the area.

"As with most species, the female does most of the incubation and cares for the chicks when they're young.

"The successful breeding of this chick is a reflection on the conservation work that we have been carrying out, particularly over the last 20 years.

"This work includes extending the reserve, and allowing diverse habitats to evolve that have resulted in the return of other species such as otters and water vole."

A survey of the UK's tallest bird carried out in 2018 indicated that it continued to make a comeback in the country, with a record 54 pairs producing 25 chicks and taking the national total population to around 180 birds, the RSPB said.

The birds, which stand 4ft (120cm) tall, were once widespread in this country before they became extinct in the 17th century as a result of hunting and the loss of the wetlands in which they make their home.

In 1979 a small number of wild cranes returned to the UK and established themselves in an area of the Norfolk Broads, and slowly spread to other areas of eastern England with help from conservationists who worked to improve the habitat they need.

The National Trust said visitors to Wicken Fen should be able to spot the new crane family in a few weeks once the young crane starts exploring.