Video: Watch as eagle chick hatches from egg at Fife falconry centre
These rare and fascinating pictures show the first moments in the life of an eagle chick which will one day become a deadly predator.
The chick hatched with the assistance from staff at the Elite Falconry centre near Kirkcaldy on December 28.
And the images give a rare glimpse at the natural phenomenon of an aggressive bird being hatched from its egg and treated in its early days.
The Martial eagle is one of the largest and most powerful species of eagle in the world with its wingspan expected to grow up to 8ft6in in length.
But the chick is still the size of an orange and has only just been reunited with its parents.
Hatching is one of the most precarious moments in a bird’s life and handlers at the centre assisted in helping the bird out of the egg.
The chick will be monitored by CCTV for the next nine months and will be raised naturally by its parents Napoleon and Josephine.
Falconer Roxanne Peggie said the birth on UK soil of the martial eagle, usually found in Sub-Saharan Africa, is very rare.
She said: “The young bird won’t see another human face for the next nine months.
“We’ll monitor him by CCTV while his parents raise him naturally in the daylight seclusion aviary.
“We won’t name him until he’s much older and shows signs of a defining characteristic.
“You can count on one hand the number of eagles of this species that have been born in the UK. It’s very rare.”
The chick was placed back with its parents last week after initially being monitored by handlers to help it during its early days.
Martial eagles are marked as being vulnerable on the IUCN red list of threatened species following three generations of declining numbers worldwide.
They tend to have a dislike for humans and like to stay away from them in the wild - but if they’re attacked by other animals then they will strike back until their aggressor is finished off.
In their native Africa, many Martial eagles are killed off by shooting or poisoning because they are seen as a threat to livestock.
They are also killed by collisions with power lines and wind turbines.
The birds are known to attack pigs, chickens, sheep and goats - even earning them the nickname of “lamb catcher” in South Africa.
To avoid the risk of danger from the cold in a Scottish climate or the parents accidentally breaking the egg, staff at the falcon centre removed it after 10 days of natural incubation by the parents.
They then artificially incubated the egg for 41 days until it hatched.
After the first egg was removed, the parents produced another egg which, if it is fertile, will then be donated to foster parents at another bird centre.
A post on Elite Falconry’s Facebook page showed a picture of the newborn chick resting.
It said: “The new baby safely hatched, and drying nicely.
“Amazing that this tiny bundle is set to grow into the fifth largest species of eagle in the world, the largest in Africa, and one of the most powerful eagles in the world.
“Even the mighty are tiny, vulnerable and helpless at birth.”