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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Chick joy for rare hen harriers
Hen Harriers at the Geltsdale Reserve
Hen harriers are among England's rarest bird of prey
Eggs belonging to a pair of rare hen harriers have hatched at a nest site in Cumbria, officials have announced.

The endangered birds laid four eggs at Geltsdale reserve, but it is not yet known exactly how many hatched.

But for soccer fans among the RSPB team it means they may miss England's World Cup campaign as the nest must be guarded 24-hours a day.

Hen harriers have been called "the most endangered bird of prey in England" with just a few nesting pairs left.

RSPB reserve warden, Dave O'Hara, said: "We're over the moon at the news that the harriers have chicks, but some of the nest protection team may be sick as a parrot that they will miss out on World Cup action.

Illegal killing

"With the arrival of chicks, it's more important than ever that we maintain the 24-hour guard on the nest.

"However, the birds have settled in a remote part of the reserve where we won't be able to follow football fixtures via TV, radio or the web."

More than a dozen local volunteers are helping watch over the nest site.

Illegal killing is considered the principal reason why hen harriers are absent from most areas of suitable moorland in northern England.

Anyone disturbing, killing, injuring or taking birds, their nests or eggs can face a fine of up to 5,000 for each incident and six months in prison.

Baby boom for rare birds of prey
10 Aug 05 |  England
New haven for threatened species
08 Feb 05 |  Cumbria

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