Rare bird eggs found in police raid on house in Huddersfield are hatched and chicks released into wild

Tiny birds which were found as eggs during a police raid on a house in Huddersfield have hatched and been released into the wild.

The golden plover chicks would not have survived if police had not raided the house and found them, the RSPB has said

Three golden plover chicks and one curlew chick were rescued as eggs in an incubator during the raid in April.

South Yorkshire Police officers were executing a search warrant at the house when the eggs were found, and accompanying RSPB officers seized more than 200 birds’ eggs alongside associated equipment, books and taxidermy items.

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Among the seized items was an incubator containing seven unhatched eggs, which were removed and taken to Smiths Nursey in Thorngumbald, near Hull, to be cared for until they hatched.

The golden plover chicks would not have survived if police had not raided the house and found them, the RSPB has said. Picture: SWNS

A 63 year-old man was arrested and released in connection and remains under investigation by South Yorkshire Police, the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and RSPB.

The birds' protection charity said the chicks have now hatched and been freed to spread their wings after defying officers' expectations of surviving.

Sheffield's Rural and Wildlife Crime Officer, Pc Elizabeth Wilson, said: “When we executed the warrant at the property we were just expecting to find eggs that had been collected and stored in drawers or cabinets.

"We certainly didn’t expect to find live viable eggs in an incubator! I wanted to give those eggs the best chance of survival."

Charles Hardcastle of Smiths Nurseries said: “When we first received the eggs we were concerned they might not hatch. Some of them had cracks in them or were infected and went bad.

"But these ones did hatch and luckily and we managed to rear three lovely plovers and one lovely curlew. We provided artificial heat and fed them every few hours, then soon they became very independent."

Mr Hardcastle added: "We’re so pleased with how well they’ve done. It’s sad seeing them go, any parent will know what that’s like, but also really exciting to see them take this next step into the wider world.

"These birds would have had no chance of life had they been left as they were. Now when we see a curlew or a golden plover flying over, we’ll be wondering if it’s one of ours.”

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “We’re delighted to see a happy end to this story. Thankfully very few egg collecting cases come to light these days, but finding live eggs, which have then gone on to hatch, is unprecedented.

"Curlews are in dire trouble in England, having declined dramatically in the last 25 years. The RSPB and other conservation organisations are working hard to protect these magnificent birds.”