Rewilding plan aims to bring 'beautiful' white storks to London

White storks (AFP via Getty Images)
White storks (AFP via Getty Images)

White storks could soon be gracing the London skyline, if ambitious new rewilding plans come to fruition.

Following the birds' triumphant return to southern England in 2016, a dedicated white stork working group has been formed to explore the possibility of bringing the “beautiful” creatures to the capital.

Citizen Zoo, urban rewilding specialists behind the successful Ealing beaver project, are leading the initiative.

The group will be scouting potential habitats and gauging support from London boroughs and local communities.

Elliot Newton, co-founder of Citizen Zoo, 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 project follows a historic milestone in 2020 when storks bred in the wild in Britain for the first time in over 600 years.

The last recorded nesting pair was spotted atop St Giles' cathedral in Edinburgh back in 1416.

Around 40 sightings of white storks have been recorded in various parts of London in recent years.

While the birds typically favour farmlands and wetlands, nests have been spotted on the outskirts of major European cities like Munich and Lisbon.

In London, keen-eyed birdwatchers have reported stork sightings at Beddington Farmlands nature reserve near Croydon and around Wandsworth Common.

The increase in sightings can be traced back to the success of the White Stork Project at the Knepp estate in West Sussex, 45 miles south of central London.

Last year was particularly fruitful, with 26 chicks fledging from 11 nests across the 3,500-acre estate. British-born storks have since spread their wings, with one even found breeding in the Netherlands.

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."

Lucas Ruzo, chief executive of Citizen Zoo, added: "Their return will not only be about returning a species once lost, but also a poetic reminder of the bond between humanity and the natural world."