RSPCA Cymru last week revealed that they found two living small kestrel chicks nesting in a jet plane’s exhaust system. 

The team said the little chicks were “lucky to be alive” when they discovered them in the exhaust of an A320 aircraft on Friday, July 23. 

A technician noticed two pairs of eyes peering back at him as the jet was towed into Caerdav hangar at the St Athan airport, near Cardiff Airport.

“On closer inspection Umit saw that the pairs of eyes belonged to two chicks,” said Paul Nash,  base maintenance manager at Caerdav, according to a news release by the rescue team. “Others were called to take a look and the guessing began as to what type of birds they were. None of the staff thought about Kestrels.”

The staff immediately called the RSPCA Cymru, an animal welfare group, to rescue the little pair of chicks. 

Before RSPCA Cymru arrived, the Technicians who spotted the birds, Umit Atas and Luciano Ferriera, knew they were starving and dehydrated. 

“Umit and Luciano (Lucky), put some water in a bowl and some pieces of cooked chicken in another, in the hope the chicks would feed,” said Nash. “When checked 15 minutes later the food and water was gone which was a relief to all.”

Kestrel chicks found in a jet plane’s exhaust system, July 28, 2021 (RSPCA Cymru/Twiter)

The rescue team expected that the chicks had not been fed for days since the plane was removed off the runway.

The pair, later named after the two men who first found them, Umit and Lucky, were brought to Gower Bird Hospital to be cared for.

Since August of last year, the plane had been on the runway at the maintenance facility, but it was hauled inside the hangar for repairs.

“These little chicks are lucky to be alive—and we’re so relieved and grateful to the engineers who spotted them and sounded the alarm,” said RSPCA Inspector Simon Evans. “I have no doubt they were rescued just in the nick of time.”

Evans added that kestrels were not as rare as commonly thought, but for them to be found in an aircraft was the first case he knew of. 

“We’re just so very lucky mechanics hadn’t started the aircraft’s engine or this would have ended in disaster,” Evens shared. 

Nash said that day was among the rare days that they did not operate function checks by running the APU before checking into the hangar.

“This wasn’t needed otherwise the chicks would have met an untimely and scary end to their short lives,” he said, given that the technicians were relieved when the chicks were rescued without any harm. 

According to an RSPB report, Kestrels are in the amber list of the U.K.’s conservation priority categories. Their numbers decreased in the 1970s allegedly due to changes in farming. On the other hand, the species has adapted to man-made settings and can continue their lives in city centers.

“Kestrels have an amber conservation status in the UK,” RSPCA News, published on September 8, 2019 (David White/Unsplash)

In the U.K., there are roughly 46,000 breeding pairs, and they feed on small mammals, birds, worms, and insects.

Grown-up kestrels on average can be up to 32-35cm in length with a swing span that extends to 71-80cm and weigh approximately between 156 and 252 grams.

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