Science teacher Ellen Castley and Alfie Baxter, 12, with the handwritten letter from Sir David Attenborough. Picture: Ian Burt

Science students at a West Norfolk school have received a handwritten reply from Sir David Attenborough after writing to the renown naturalist with a query about their studies.

A Year Seven class at Marshland High School, in West Walton, was learning about birds and they wanted to know why birds of prey, which use their talons to catch their food, are so called, rather than being known as birds of predator.

The pupils, taught by Ellen Castley, decided to try their luck and wrote to Sir David at his home address in Richmond, Surrey, and were thrilled when the 95-year-old replied.

The letter said: “Eagles ‘prey’ on smaller mammals, who are also called their ‘prey’. 

“‘Predators’ is a noun meaning, roughly, hunters. So ‘birds of hunters’ makes no sense; ‘birds of prey’ is very accurate – and shorter. Best wishes, David Attenborough.” 

“The class is overjoyed, as am I, that he replied,” said Miss Castley. 

“I can’t stop telling everyone!”

Marshland High School is part of the West Norfolk Academies Trust, which runs 11 schools across the borough.