Stunning white storks ready to deliver after building a nest in a Norfolk chimney
16:51 31 March 2014
Excitement is mounting at a Norfolk wildlife haven where white storks are nesting on an 18th century chimney.
Tall and slender, the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) has a distinctive long neck, bright red bill, long legs and black wing feathers.
Measuring up to 125 cm (50in) tall, they have a wing span of about 155-200cm (61-79in) and feed on snakes, lizards, fish and insects.
A migatory bird, the stork usually breeds in the warmer parts of continental Europe, will spend most winters in Africa and return to the UK in spring.
They have been building their nests on man-made structures since the middle ages and the same pair will often return to the same site every years.
Those nests can weigh up to a ton and cause chimneys to collapse.
Long associated with fertility and fidelity, the myth of storks delivering babies down the chimney is worldwide - it is thought to have 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.
The white storks, part of the collection at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in Filby, near Great Yarmouth, could be the first pair to successfully breed in the UK for hundreds of years.
The white stork breeds mainly in continental Europe, migrating to Africa in winter. The distinctive birds nest close to human habitation, often creating their nests on chimneys, rooftops or telegraph poles, but this is only the third time in 600 years they have been recorded nesting in this traditional way in the UK.
Ken Sims, director of Thrigby Hall, said: “We gave the storks a helping hand by building a structure for their nest on the hall’s front chimney, but they turned their back on our handiwork and have built their own nest on one of the rear stacks.
“They have definitely mated and are very busy, so we’ll be keeping a close eye over the next month or so to see if they begin feeding activities, which will mean that chicks have arrived.”
Records show that in 1416, a pair of white storks nested on Edinburgh’s St Giles Cathedral.
More recently, in 2004, a pair attempted to nest on a pylon in West Yorkshire.