Bee-eater chicks hatch for first time ever in Norfolk

Visitors have come from near and far to see the bee-eaters at Trimingham. 

Visitors have come from near and far to see the bee-eaters at Trimingham. - Credit: Archant / Mike Edgecombe

Bee-eater chicks have hatched for what is believed to be the first time ever in Norfolk

The RSPB has reported that the colony of about eight of the exotic rainbow birds who have been nesting at a quarry in Trimingham had a successful hatching on Wednesday, July 20.

The bee-eaters have caused a stir since they were first spotted at the site on June 4, as the species is a rare visitor to these shores and is normally found much further south, around the Mediterranean. 

A bee-eater bird spreads its rainbow wings at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. 

A bee-eater bird spreads its rainbow wings at Trimingham, near Cromer in north Norfolk. - Credit: John Ford

And although there have been some sightings over the years, including at Great Yarmouth in June last year, this is the first time that chicks have ever hatched here. 

In Trimingham, the RSPB set up a special viewing platform on land next to the quarry owned by a farmer so visitors could come and see the birds without disturbing their colony. It has attracted more than 15,000 bird-watchers from across the country, and excitement only mounted when it looked like the bee-eaters were getting ready to breed. 

The RSBP said on its YouTube channel - where people can watch a live feed of the bee-eaters' burrow - that the first eggs were laid around June 21, and the first chicks were hatched on Wednesday.

Mark Thomas, from the RSPB, said there was "no way of knowing" how many eggs had hatched so far.

Mr Thomas said: "This is the first time it has happened in Norfolk and only the sixth time in the past 20 years in the UK.

"This is a species that is increasing its breeding attempts in line with climate change, which makes us very concerned about the big picture."

Bird watchers at the quarry in Trimingham where the bee-eater birds are now nesting.

Bird watchers at the quarry in Trimingham where the bee-eater birds are now nesting. - Credit: Denise Bradley

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Mr Thomas said the chicks had "a long way to go" before there was real cause for celebration, as predators including foxes and a weasel had been spotted near the site, and it was not uncommon for young birds to perish before fledging. 

He said he wanted to thank everyone involved in the conservation effort, including volunteers from the North East Norfolk Bird Club, who had spent "thousands of hours" guarding the nest.

Provided they survive, the chicks should fledge around August 19.

New chicks: A climate warning

Bee-eaters last nested in the UK in 2017, in Nottinghamshire, though the last successful fledging was on the Isle of Wight in 2014. The RSPB says the increase in nesting attempts in the past 20 years is a sign that our climate is heating rapidly.

The body's director of conservation, Katie-jo Luxton, said: “While it’s good news that that these chicks have hatched, this remains a very vivid reminder of the changes being wrought by our overheating planet.

"Bee-eaters are a species found commonly in the southern Mediterranean and northern Africa, and as our planet warms they – along with other species – are being pushed further north.

“Hotter, drier summers and searing temperatures – as experienced in the UK this week – will become the norm if urgent action isn’t taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"We urge the next prime minister to honour the commitment to reach net zero by 2050 and put nature’s recovery at the fore by making this a decade of action for climate and nature.”