‘Male’ eagle owl who laid eggs foster rears a chick

Bernard the eagle owl with the chick he is rearing at Stapleford Park Hotel's school of falconry EMN-170517-102758001
Bernard the eagle owl with the chick he is rearing at Stapleford Park Hotel's school of falconry EMN-170517-102758001
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A rare new chick born in the grounds of Stapleford Park Hotel is being reared by a gender-confused male eagle owl called Bernard .

Head falconer Pete Sibson initially sexed Bernard as a male when he hatched him back in 1999.

But in the last couple of years the striking owl began laying eggs, prompting suspicions that he might actually be a female.

The eggs proved to be infertile but when a new chick was born at the hotel’s School of Falconry, Bernard was given the chance to become a mum and is happily rearing the chick.

Pete said: “I thought to myself that Bernard has laid these eggs but none of them are going to hatch.

“Bernard is now rearing the new chick and is really taking to it.

“It took Bernard, or should we call him Bernadette, only 30 seconds to cover it and four or five days to start feeding it.”

Pete first noticed something was different about Bernard two years ago when he looked off colour during a flying display at the hotel.

He put it down initially to Bernard being a bit moody and started flying his team-mates Roger and Roland instead.

Pete was worried the owl was at death’s door until he suddenly stood up and produced an egg.

He recalled: “For a while I actually thought Bernard was dying.

“Then when he produced this egg you should have seen my face.”

The hotel falconry has stopped breeding birds because there are too many being born in the UK, leading to them being sold cheaply often to people who are not trained to look after them.

The new chick was born last month at the hotel.

It has doubled in size within a week and should reach full adult size within around 26 days.

It’s wing span will eventually extend to around six foot.

The hotel is runing a competition to name the new chick. To enter go to their Instagram page @staplefordpark and using the hashtag #nameourchick give a name.