Shy bird makes home near Suffolk airbase

A RARE species of bird has chosen a unique setting to escape the ever-growing threat of poachers.Four pairs of stone curlew have made their home at a military runway at RAF Lakenheath in the midst of the constant roar of jet engines at the base.

A RARE species of bird has chosen a unique setting to escape the ever-growing threat of poachers.

Four pairs of stone curlew have made their home at a military runway at RAF Lakenheath in the midst of the constant roar of jet engines at the base.

Though not the most typical of homes, a wildlife expert said the birds are very safe in their present environment.

Graham Elliott, head of investigations for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: "It is highly unlikely collectors will risk their necks trying to scale the fences of the base to steal their eggs.


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"The birds have this amazing ability to blot out the noise of the aircrafts. They realise they are not threatened and they just put up with it.

"In a way it is quite rare, but the attraction for the curlew is that there are in very short grassland and this habitat is what attracted them to the airbase in the first place."

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Every year the RSPB receive reports of collectors stealing the bird's rare eggs but Mr Elliott said this threat had been cancelled by the surroundings of the airbase.

He added: "There is usually a threat from egg collectors but the airbase is fully protected.

"Birds who nest in more natural sites in the Breckland area are targeted by collectors and each year we receive reports that a small number of nests are being robbed.

"It is usually only a handful of thefts but there are only 100 pairs of stone curlew in the Breckland area so any robbery is potentially significant.

"There are a dedicated bunch of collectors who travel widely around the United Kingdom and abroad but it is highly irresponsible and of course illegal."

Russell Littlejohn, with the Lakenheath Environmental Flight, said: "The US Air Force feels it is important to preserve our natural resources and to that end, we do try to protect the birds as best we can.

"It is sometimes an inconvenience, but we work through those inconveniences."

Stone curlews are regarded as one of the oddest birds in the United Kingdom, looking almost pre-historic with their beady yellow eyes and knobbly knees.

Their choice of home is normally quite fussy, and they like to settle in shallow nests on open disturbed ground.

But they are certainly thriving in their new surroundings. The average reproduction rate for stone curlews in the UK is one chick for every two nests. Last year at Lakenheath they had five chicks from two nests.

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