Wild White Stork Chicks Hatch In UK For The First Time In 600 Years
The chicks from one out of three nests at the Knepp Estate in the south of England have hatched, meaning that a conservation mission to bring storks back onto the shores of Great Britain for good has been a success.
Researchers have been paying close attention to the nests, and spotted some adult storks removing egg shell from one nest that contained five eggs, as well as regurgitating food.
That generally means that there are chicks there - they've not just had a bad takeaway.
This is the second time that the storks have attempted to breed in the UK and, although last year's efforts failed, this years seems to have been a lot more fruitful.
Lucy Groves, a project officer for the White Stork Project, which has been working to bring the birds back to the UK, said that this is the first time storks have successfully nested in the UK for centuries.
She explained: "After waiting 33 days for these eggs to hatch it was extremely exciting to see signs that the first egg had hatched on May 6.
"The parents have been working hard and are doing a fantastic job, especially after their failed attempt last year.
"It is incredible to have the first white stork chicks hatch in the wild for hundreds of years here at Knepp.
"These are early days for the chicks, and we will be monitoring them closely, but we have great hopes for them.
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"This is just one step towards establishing this species in the South of England. It may be a small step, but it is an exciting one.
"This stunning species has really captured people's imagination and it has been great following the sightings of birds from the project during the period of lockdown and hearing about the joy and hope they have brought to people."
The aim of the project is to restore a population of 50 breeding pairs of storks to the UK by 2030.
Storks previously used to nest in the UK as far back as 360,000 years ago, according to archaeological records.
However, for whatever reason - probably to do with humans - the last record of white storks nesting was on the roof of St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh in - wait for it - 1416.
That's a bloody long time ago.
Isabella Tree, who owns Knepp Estate along with a man called Charlie Burrell, said: "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."
Featured Image Credit: White Stork Project