Rare Buzzard To Migrate By Plane

A rare honey buzzard which was injured in the UK is set to fly to its African wintering grounds this week - by plane, the Hawk Conservancy Trust said.

The juvenile bird suffered a fractured wing and was taken to the Trust's bird of prey hospital in Hampshire for treatment, but because of the time it took to heal, the buzzard missed the window to migrate to Africa.

Honey buzzards spend the winter in sub-Saharan Africa and migrate to Europe to breed. They are very rare in the UK, with just several dozen pairs breeding each year.

The young bird treated at the bird of prey hospital is in its first year and should have set off to fly south in August, not returning to breed in the UK for two years.

So the experts have decided to give the honey buzzard a helping hand, by arranging for it to fly by plane to Gambia, where it will be released.

The buzzard, which will travel in a wooden crate with its tail feathers taped up to avoid them being damaged, which could prevent it from flying once it is released, is due to set off on its alternative migration on Tuesday.

Curator Andy Hinton said:

''The honey buzzard winters in Africa and comes to the UK to breed in the summer.

''This young male is in his first year and after migrating to Africa, in August, would not be expected to return to breed until his third year.

''This left us with a bit of a dilemma. We were faced with the choice of keeping him at the hospital for at least two years or finding a way of helping him follow his expected migration pattern.

''These birds have a very specialised diet and it was inconceivable to keep him in captivity all that time so we decided to fly him home using modern aviation methods.''

Travel firm The Gambia Experience has arranged the flight and the release site in Gambia, which has been identified by the company's wildlife guides in the country.