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Rare big bird could fly back to Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 20:00 01 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:34 03 March 2010

TURKEY-sized birds, which once soared Suffolk's skies, could be making a comeback.

The great bustard, once common in agricultural East Anglia, was hunted to extinction in the 1830s.

By JON TUNNEY

jon.tunney@eveningstar.co.uk>

TURKEY-sized birds, which once soared Suffolk's skies, could be making a comeback.

The great bustard, once common in agricultural East Anglia, was hunted to extinction in the 1830s.

But the impressive bird could be on its way back to Suffolk's fields if a conservation group achieves it aim.

The Great Bustard Steering Group has spent the last two years working towards the reintroduction of the bird from its current habitat in eastern Europe.

And organisers are now confident they will receive government backing to bring captive bustards back to the county.

Dr Patrick Osborne, scientific adviser to the group, explained all bids to reintroduce extinct species are governed by international guidelines.

He stressed the Government was obliged to consider reintroduction wherever possible and said the Great Bustard had a good case.

Dr Osborne, who lectures in environmental science at Stirling University, said: "It's a very impressive and spectacular bird and it's missing from the eco-system.

"Bringing it back would be a very good way of increasing interest in grassland conservation as it's quite difficult to get people excited about grassland."

The steering group intends to import about 20 Russian great bustard chicks to Britain next spring.

Initially, a colony will be started on Salisbury Plain, but Dr Osborne said he saw Suffolk as another potential habitat for the birds.

He said: "I would not be at all surprised if they ended up in Suffolk."

Weblinks

www.borealforest.org

www.quinion.com

The great bustard is one of the largest birds capable of flight. Males can reach 17kg and females up to 8kg.

There are thought to be nearly 40,000 great bustards in Spain, eastern Europe and Asia.

English dining tables once heaved with great bustards. The bird was thought to provide excellent eating, especially when stuck with cloves and roasted.

The bird's Latin name is avis tarda – meaning slow bird. But the great bustard actaully has very powerful legs which means it can run quickly when needed.

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