Beautiful white storks could be coming back to London

When you think of London’s birdlife, pigeons, ducks, seagulls and parakeets are probably the first feathered friends that spring to mind. But if an ambitious new rewilding initiative goes to plan, you might also soon be spotting stunning white storks around the capital. 

White storks’ were reintroduced to southern England in 2016 after a whopping 600-year absence, and now urban rewilding group Citizen Zoo has developed an initiative dedicated to exploring how to bring the beautiful bird back to the capital.

As part of the project, the group will be scouting out potential habitats for the storks, which prefer wetlands and farmland, and gathering support from London boroughs and locals. Citizen Zoo is likely best known for its involvement in a previous rewilding initiative which successfully brought back beavers to west London for the first time in 400 years. 

Elliot Newton, the group’s co-founder, told the Guardian: ‘We know we have habitat here, and there’s a lot of wetland restoration occurring across Greater London as well so hopefully the habitat opportunities are increasing over time.’

He added: ‘We don’t know if it’s possible yet but how amazing would it be if white storks nested in St James’s Park, beside Buckingham Palace, as a symbol of ecological recovery in the capital?’ 

The initiative comes after a historic milestone was reached in 2020, when a pair of white storks bred in the wild in the UK at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex thanks to the pioneering White Stork Project. Since then, the number of breeding pairs has only increased on the 3,500-acre estate: in 2023, 26 chicks fledged from 11 nests. 

Mr Newton added: ‘White storks breed excitement. We’re hoping to engage and motivate people to consider their reintroduction into London. It’s such a beautiful bird that people will recognise and see, and it can capture the imagination of people who might miss other species. It will be a symbol of ecological regeneration in urban spaces across the UK.’

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Plus: here’s why Londoners being asked to count all pollinating insects in the city.

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