For the first time in 600 years white stork chicks hatch in England

The first white storks born in England in more than 600 years have shocked bird watchers, as they’ve come out of their nest for the first time, British news agency SWNS reports.

The baby chicks, who live in a nest at Knee Castle near Horsham, West Sussex, were spotted poking their heads out when one of their parents returned. The birds were born as a part of the White Stork Project, which is a group of “private landowners and nature conservation organizations” working to bring the birds to South East England for the first time in several hundred years.

The organization is working to restore a population of 50 breeding pairs by 2030, which will be aided by the new chicks. There were five eggs in the nest as late as April.

A spokesman for the project said the female is a ringed bird from the project. The male, however, does not have an identifying ring, so it’s possible it could be one of approximately 20 storks that visit the country every year.

It’s unclear why the storks, which are “symbolic of rebirth” according to the project, did not survive in Britain.

A number of theories suggest habitat loss, overhunting and “targeted persecution” all contributed to the decline, given it was associated with rebellion during the English Civil War.