• SongBird Survival

Revisit from the stork

The rare white stork that vanished from the British countryside over 400 years ago has been successfully reintroduced in West Sussex.

The rare birds — once a common sight in Britain until around the end of the Civil War in the 1600s — have now returned to the Knepp Estate of Horsham, West Sussex.

This reintroduction follows a successful breeding programme by the White Stork Project at Cotswold Wildlife Park, in Burford, West Oxfordshire.

Native to the British Isles, the birds — which build huge nests in tall trees and towers — are often believed to symbolise rebirth.

Storks were reportedly the centre of attention in medieval banquet — and are famously found in folklore carrying newborn babies to their parent's in a swaddle hung from their beaks.

The last known breeding nest of storks in the UK, however, was recorded as being in St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh in 1416.

The White Stork Project — a partnership between private landowners and nature conservation charities — aims to restore a population of at least 250 storks to the south of England by the year 2030.

Looking over the next five years, the project has a three-step release programme planned at the Knepp Estate — the first stage of which has seen storks being introduced from Poland.

The second phase of the release scheme will be to introduce other birds who will, over time, grow to think of Sussex as be their main home.

Finally, the project will introduce young juveniles to the reserve — these are expected to become the migrant population who fly abroad to breed.

Conservationists believe that it was a combination of habitat loss, over-hunting and persecution that contributed to the stork's decline in the UK.

Although there have been many sightings of white storks migrating across South East England in recent years, conservationists determined that the species would need a helping hand to re-establish a breeding population in Britain.

In the next few weeks, storks will migrate across the Sahara to West Africa, flying at an altitude of 16,000 feet (4.88 kilometres) above sea level.

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