A group of 24 juvenile white storks have been released at the Knepp rewilding project in West Sussex as part of an initiative to restore the species to Southern England.
The White Stork Project is a pioneering partnership between Knepp Estate, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Cotswold Wildlife Park, which aims to have at least 50 breeding pairs in Southern England by 2030. The first releases of adult birds aimed to establish nesting pairs, if successful this would be the first time storks have nested in southern England since the end of the Civil War. These newly released youngsters will add to the population and it is hoped that in the coming weeks they will migrate south for the winter. They are expected to cross over the English Channel and then join up with other migrating storks as they head south through France and Spain before crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, and then the Sahara, to West Africa.
All of the storks have blue coloured rings (with a unique white code) on their legs, so anyone who spots a stork in the British countryside can report their sightings on the project website (www.whitestorkproject.org). Eight of the storks have lightweight GPS tags which will transmit data on a regular basis so that conservationists can track their flight paths and find out if they stay in the UK or fly south for the winter.
Lucy Groves, Project Officer for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust commented: “Having looked after these birds since they arrived at Knepp, it was a joy to see them leaving the release pen and taking to the skies with our free flying adults. I have been blown away by the response from our local community, many of whom have provided us with sighting reports which are crucial for helping us to understand the behaviour of these young storks. It will be interesting to see whether they decide to stay with our resident adults at Knepp or if they spread their wings and decide to fly south. This is an exciting milestone for the project and I will be following their progress closely.”
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