A BIRDS of prey visitor centre in the grounds of Duncombe Park, Helmsley, is expected to open at Easter.

The last aviary was finished last month and work is now underway to complete the pathways around the centre. Much of the building work and creation of the footpaths was done by volunteers.

The Centre of the Birds of Prey (ICBP), whose headquarters are in Gloucester, are behind the £350,000 project which will feature a wide range of rare breeds. ICBP’s head, Charlie Heap, said: “I am delighted with the amount of volunteer support we have had.”

At its centre in Newent, Gloucestershire the ICBP has Griffon vultures, Indian tawny eagles, Steeler’s sea eagles and lesser kestrels, owls and other birds, which will all be on show at the Duncombe Park centre.

The new Ryedale attraction will also have falconry displays each day for visitors, a hawk walk, an education area and aviaries.

Mr Heap, a falconer and builder, expects the new centre, which will be home to about 120 birds, including Indian vultures, to attract 40,000 visitors a year.

Mr Heap said the Helmsley centre would play a key part in the conservation of rare breeds of birds of prey, especially as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds had said recently that it was becoming increasingly concerned about the number of such birds being shot or poisoned in North Yorkshire.

Conservation is a key factor in the ICBP’s work. The centre in Gloucestershire opened in1967 and many of the birds born and raised there are destined for the Helmsley centre.

Originally, the Duncombe Park attraction was to have opened last year but building was delayed by the wet weather.

Jake Duncombe, who runs the Duncombe Park Estate, believes it will be a major asset to the local economy.

“I’m sure it will be a very significant attraction for Ryedale as a whole and Helmsley in particular. We are delighted with the project,” he said.