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Booth Museum Bird of the Month, August 2020: White stork, Ciconia ciconia

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August’s bird of the month is the white stork, which is in keeping with this month’s theme in our Climate Conversations series: Solutions.

This year is an exciting one for white storks in Sussex. You may have already seen or heard that white storks have successfully bred in Sussex for the first time since the 1400s. As part of their rewilding project, white storks were reintroduced at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex. This year there were two successful breeding pairs. Four chicks have fledged from the two nests and are expected to begin migrating to sub-Saharan Africa in August or September. 

White Stork

European White Stork case

At the Booth Museum there are two cases occupied by white storks that were only seen in Britain as rare visitors. One of the storks was shot by Booth himself and is displayed in a diorama with ‘natural’ surroundings.  This is part of Booth’s sad tale of his capture of the stork in 1873:

‘Although he had been (as I afterwards learned) for a couple of days in the country abounding with frogs and other suitable food, there was nothing except a few large spiders in his stomach.’ 

The second case is a stork in flight against a blue background. This was shot by another collector in the same year. 

‘…two of these rare visitors to Britain visited the Downs above Brighton but never got any further.’

Thankfully it is looking more positive in this century. This country has been seeing declines of many species of birds, but it is being reversed by successful reintroductions that allow species to recolonise in suitable areas that they have disappeared from. Captive-bred young will be released at Knepp and join the adults and this year’s juveniles on their southward migration. 

Elsewhere, white storks have changed their migration patterns, now sometimes remaining in Southern Europe for the entire year, due to increasingly warm winters caused by climate change. 

You’ll be able to read more about solutions to biodiversity loss and climate change in our Climate conversations series throughout the month of August.

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Kerrie Curzon, Collections Assistant