Wild white storks born in UK for first time in centuries

White storks have hatched in the UK for the first time in about 600 years.

The chicks were born from one of three nests in the Knepp Estate in West Sussex on Friday. Onlookers watched as the parents regurgitated food to feed the chicks in their nest on an oak tree.

The same pair also tried to breed last year at the Knepp Estate - but without success.

There is evidence that storks have been breeding in the UK for around 360,000 years.

But the White Stork Project, which aims to reintroduce a wild stork population to Britain, said that the most recent record of storks breeding in the UK was 1416 in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Lucy Groves, project officer for the White Stork Project, described the news as "incredible".

She added" “These are early days for the chicks, and we will be monitoring them closely, but we have great hopes for them.

“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 White Stork Project aims to reintroduce at least 50 breeding pairs of white storks to the UK by 2030.

It is believed that habitat loss, hunting and persecution contributed to the drop in the bird's population.

Isabella Tree, co-owner of Knepp with 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.”