Wild white stork chicks hatch in UK for first time in hundreds of years

May 23, 2020

The first wild white stork chicks have hatched in the UK for what is believed to be hundreds of years.

The White Stork Project has been closely monitoring three nests at the Knepp estate in West Sussex.

After a 33-day wait, six eggs hatched in two of the nests.

It is believed the parents of the first hatchlings are the same pair that attempted to nest at Knepp last year, when their eggs failed to hatch.

The parents have been seen incubating and regurgitating food for their offspring.

White Stork Project officer Lucy Groves said it was a "nervous wait" after last year's failed attempt.

"We were hedging our bets a little bit, trying not to get over excited, but going from one nest last year to three this year and no chicks last year to two nests with chicks this year is just fantastic," she said.

In European folklore the stork is said to be responsible for bringing babies to new parents.

The last storks that were recorded breeding successfully in the wild nested on St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh in 1416.

The White Stork Project at Knepp aims to restore a population of at least 50 breeding pairs across the south of England by 2030.

The co-owner of Knepp, Isabella Tree, said: "There's something so magical and charismatic about white storks when you see them wheeling around in the sky, and I love their association with rebirth and regeneration.

"They're the perfect emblem for rewilding. A symbol of hope. It's going to be amazing to have them back in the British countryside, bill-clattering on their nests in spring, perhaps even setting up nests on our rooftops like they do in Europe.

"When I hear that clattering sound now, coming from the tops of our oak trees where they're currently nesting at Knepp, it feels like a sound from the Middle Ages has come back to life.

"We watch them walking through the long grass on their long legs, kicking up insects and deftly catching them in their long beaks as they go - there's no other bird that does that in the UK.

"It's walking back into a niche that has been empty for centuries."

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