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Wildlife centre hoping its storks will have a special delivery

PUBLISHED: 08:33 29 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:19 29 April 2015

The white storks at their new home

The white storks at their new home

Archant

While Britain waits for the overdue royal stork to arrive to deliver the latest Royal baby, a Norfolk wildlife centre is hoping for its very own special delivery.

The Stone Curlew Partnership is working with estates in the Thetford area to protect the bird. Ben Potterton from the partnership.The Stone Curlew Partnership is working with estates in the Thetford area to protect the bird. Ben Potterton from the partnership.

The bird which is known worldwide as a symbol of fertility could itself be breeding again in the UK because 22 injured white storks have travelled from a rehabilitation centre in Warsaw, Poland to Shorelands Wildlife Gardens, near Diss.

The aim of the wildlife gardens is to breed the birds and reintroduce them to the Waveney Valley and eventually eastern Norfolk and Suffolk.

Ben Potterton, inset below, director at Shorelands Wildlife Gardens, said: “The birds were extremely traumatised; they have been through a lot. Most were injured by flying into power lines and have lost the use of their wings.

“They have been in our care since last year but it is only now that we can release them into the gardens.

The legend of the white stork

Tall and slender, the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) has a distinctive long neck, bright red bill, long legs and black wing feathers.

The migratory bird prefers to build its nest on man-made structures and the same

pair will often return to

the same site every year.

Shrouded in mythology,

the birds have long been associated with fertility, delivering babies down the chimney.

The legend that the European White Stork brings babies is believed to have originated in northern Germany, perhaps because storks arrive on their breeding grounds nine months after midsummer.

It is thought that northern Europeans of Teutonic ancestry encouraged storks to nest on their homes

hoping they would bring fertility and prosperity.

The myths could have also come from the way they nest on rooftops and so close to humans – as well as the bond breeding pairs form.

Adult storks care for their young even after they

have fledged which led to a belief the young birds were taking care of their

parents.

The story is thought to explain why an ancient Greek law about taking care of your parents was called the Pelargonia, from pelargos, a stork.

“While the adults will never be able to be released into the wild, we are hoping they will breed and the babies will become part of our reintroduction into the wild programme we plan to start with other wildlife centres in the region.”

The European subspecies of the white stork breeds in several populations across much of Europe, the Middle East and west-central Asia and are uncommon in the UK.

However, sightings in recent years have brought hopes that the European visitors could become permanent residents.

The last record of white storks successfully breeding in a nest in Britain was 600 years ago at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh in 1416 
but last year a captive pair were spotted nesting on top of an 18th-century chimney at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, near Great Yarmouth.

In Europe, the birds are believed to be known as farmers’ friends.

Mr Potterton said: “Unlike the heron, the stork will not eat your pond fish. Storks could be helpful to our land. The reason why farmers like them is because they eat moles.

“People in Europe are proud to have the birds; some even believe if a pair nest and breed it brings good times.

“So introducing the stork into the wild here would be a good thing.”

Would you like to see the stork in flight in the wild? Email michelle.finch@archant.co.uk

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