Brad Albrecht via White Stork Project

Wild White Stork Chicks Hatch In UK For First Time In Centuries: 'It's Incredible'

For the first time in over 600 years, wild white stork chicks have hatched in the UK.

According to the Independent, the birds, who were born on May 6 at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex, have wildlife experts feeling hopeful about the potential of establishing the species in the south of England.

The chicks were from one of three nests at the Estate as part of an ongoing conservation effort.

The last white storks to ever hatch on British soil were believed to have been born atop Edinburgh’s St Giles’ Cathedral in 1416.

Last year's attempts at breeding the storks proved a failure. However, this year's attempt with the same pair of parent storks was clearly an incredible success.

Lucy Groves, project officer for the White Stork Project, confirmed that this is the first time chicks have hatched in the wild in more than six centuries.

“After waiting 33 days for these eggs to hatch it was extremely exciting to see signs that the first egg had hatched on 6 May," she said in an online statement.

“The parents have been working hard and are doing a fantastic job, especially after a failed attempt last year.”

Although it's still early for the newborn chicks, Groves confirmed they're being closely monitored and experts have "great hopes" for them.

Kirsty Richardson via White Stork Project

"It is incredible to have the first white stork chicks hatch in the wild for hundreds of years here at Knepp," she continued. “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."

The White Stork Project is aimed at restoring the species' population of at least 50 breeding pairs of white storks in southern England by 2030.

Penny Green via White Stork Project

As Groves explained, “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.”

Archaeological records have shown white storks once nested in the UK as far back as 360,000 years ago.

According to the White Stork Project, a combination of habitat loss, over hunting, and targeted persecution likely lead to their significant decline.

The breeding project is now taking place in Sussex specifically because it offers an extensive area of "suitable habitat", including naturally wet soil areas, coastal and floodplain grassland, and lowland calcareous grassland.

A majority of the birds sourced for the project came from Warsaw Zoo in Poland.

Isabella Tree, co-owner of the Knepp Estate, said the sound of the nesting storks is reminiscent of the "Middle Ages."

Charlie Burrell via White Stork Project

“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," she explained in the statement. "There’s no other bird that does that in the UK."

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

h/t: Independent, White Stork Project

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