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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 April, 2004, 05:17 GMT 06:17 UK
'Biggest birds' hatch UK comeback
Great Bustard
The bird has not been seen in Britain since 1832
Efforts to re-introduce the world's heaviest flying bird to Britain nearly 175 years after it died out have seen conservationists head to Russia.

It is one of the few countries in which the great bustard is known to still roam in the wild.

The British Great Bustard Group is flying to the Saratov region of Russia to find 40 chicks to bring back.

The chicks' nests are threatened with destruction in Russia so British authorities have importation licences.

The great bustard was hunted to extinction in Britain in the 1830s, partly because its succulent and delicious meat was so sought after by the nation's chefs.

Hatch plan

The team plans to hatch the eggs in Russia then transport the birds from Moscow to London when they are two weeks old.

Map, BBC
Farming and hunting killed British Bustards in 1830s
They stand to the height of an adult Roe Deer
They can be more than a metre long and upwards of 15kg
About 40,000 Bustards are in Spain, Portugal, central Europe, Russia and central Asia
Their alarm call is a short, nasal sound similar to a bark
They will then be taken to Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, where they will be reared in confinement before being let out into the wild.

The great bustard Group has said the bird is "the missing crown of the biodiversity and natural heritage of England".

Founder and chairman of the group, former Wiltshire Police wildlife liaison officer David Waters, said there could be teething problems for the re-introduction of the birds in the UK.

He said: "The adults can live for up to 20-25 years, but the survival rate for great bustard chicks in the wild is not great - 75% of them will die in the first year.

"They do have a capacity for injuring themselves and the simple fact of the great outdoors is that there're a lot of things that eat each other."


SEE ALSO:
Bustard makes official comeback
03 Nov 03  |  Wiltshire
Bustard project takes off
23 Apr 03  |  Wiltshire
Great bustard set for UK return
09 Jul 02  |  England


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