Great white egrets breed in UK for first time

First photo of the great white egret chick The great white egret chick is the first of its kind to hatch in the UK

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Great white egrets are breeding in the UK for the first time at a Somerset nature reserve.

At least one chick has hatched at Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, it has been confirmed, setting a new UK breeding bird record.

To have the egrets, a species of heron and rare visitors to the UK, breeding in the country was "incredibly exciting", manager Simon Clarke said.

There have also been unconfirmed sightings of a second chick.

"It was a great sense of relief when we confirmed we have got at least one chick on the nest," Mr Clarke told BBC Nature.

Watch the great white egret pair flying to their nest

"We've been on tenterhooks like expectant parents ourselves.

"To have this bird successfully hatch here is just brilliant," he said.

Volunteers at the Natural England site who have been helping with 24-hour monitoring of the nest, believed they saw wing flapping and a quick glimpse of a yellow bill on Tuesday night.

Start Quote

Great white egret flying with nesting material in beak

To have this bird successfully hatch here is just brilliant”

End Quote Simon Clarke Shapwick Heath reserve manager

On Wednesday morning, Kevin Anderson, great white egret project coordinator for Natural England, provided "100% definite confirmation when he saw it flapping its wings after a feed from the parent," Mr Clarke said.

"The chick already looks the size of a little egret, is looking healthy, and there are lots of feeding flights from the parents.

"It's looking good."

Recent unconfirmed sightings of a second chick would not be unusual, as great white egrets can lay up to six eggs, one at a time, over a period of a few days.

The eggs then hatch over a similar period, depending on the day they were laid.

Mr Clarke is hoping to confirm more chicks: "We're just waiting to see how many more turn up."

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