Two adorable kestrel chicks found in the exhaust of a jet engine are “lucky to be alive” and could easily have been killed if the plane had been started.

The bird of prey pair were discovered hidden in an A320 aircraft at St Athan aircraft hangar in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The jet plane had been stationed at the Bro Tathan West aerodrome since last August on the runway and was brought inside after engineers spotted the nesting chicks.

The kestrels had not been fed for a number of days and inspector Simon Evans from the RSPCA Cymru believes the birds were rescued just in time.

He managed to rescue the chicks on July 23 using a hook and a thin piece of board.

Inspector Simon said: "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.

"These chicks were very hungry, and I have no doubt were rescued just in the nick of time, as they hadn't eaten for a number of days since the aircraft had been moved inside.

"Kestrels are less common than a lot of people think – but rescuing any animal from an aircraft is certainly a new one on me!

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"We're just so very lucky mechanics hadn't started the aircraft's engine or this would have ended in disaster.

"The chicks are now in the safe hands of our friends at Gower Bird Hospital. It's only a short journey west of St. Athan, so there'll be no jet lag for these lucky kestrels!"

Two technicians, Umit Atas and Luciano Ferrier, found the chicks while they were carrying out maintenance and suddenly spotted two pairs of eyes staring at them from inside the exhaust.

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Paul Nash, base maintenance manager at Caerdav said: “It was a great thing to see but we were conscious of the chicks’ need for water and food, so 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.

"When checked 15 minutes later the food and water was gone which was a relief to all.

“The rescue caused a lot of interest in the hangar and all were relieved to see the chicks removed without harm.

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"One thing we were all grateful for was that normally we would operate the APU before entering the hangar to carry out function checks – this wasn’t needed otherwise the chicks would have met an untimely and scary end to their short lives.”

The birds have been nicknamed Umit and Lucky – after the two men who first found them.

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