Tag Archives: Wood Stork

Bird Island: the name says it all

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Radar spots Bird Island.

Just off the east side of Sewall’s Point, in the Indian River Lagoon, the spoil island is one of the top ten bird rookeries in Florida. We borrowed a boat from our boat club on Thursday and went to see how nesting season is coming along.

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Is this place even real?

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Of all the islands in the Indian River Lagoon in Martin County, the birds have chosen this one for nesting, feeding, roosting, loafing.

We stay outside the Critical Wildlife Area signs and use binoculars and a superzoom camera to watch but not bother.

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Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks. Oh my!

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The most Great Egrets I’ve seen in one place – they seem to prefer the solitary lifestyle outside of breeding season.

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Snowy Egrets and a Wood Stork at the top right of this photo. Is that a rare Reddish Egret on the left? Or a Tri-colored Heron? Can’t tell.

(Update: confirmed to be a Tricolored Heron – white belly – by helpful birders on Facebook’s “What’s This Bird?”)

I saw what I thought were three Reddish Egrets on a sandbar adjoining this island a couple of months ago, doing their distinctive fishing dance, but didn’t have my camera. In March, we spotted what I think was a Reddish Egret on Bird Island and I got a photo (it’s in this post). (Update: that one confirmed as a Reddish Egret, yay!)

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“Gear down,” noted my husband, the airline pilot.

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Fuzzy-headed juvenile Wood Storks. It’s been a phenomenal breeding year for these big wading birds. I see the adults flying back and forth over our house every day now. Sometimes a fish crow or two can be seen chasing a stork out of “their” suburban residential territory.

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Wood Storks occur only in a few areas in the United States, so to get a look at one, head to a wetland preserve or wildlife area along the coast in Florida, South Carolina, or Georgia.

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Wood Storks are social birds that forage in groups and nest in colonies. Small groups of storks forage in wetlands, frequently following each other one by one in a line. In the late afternoon, when temperatures rise, Wood Storks often take to the sky, soaring on thermals like raptors. They nest in tight colonies with egrets and herons and generally show little aggression, but if a bird or mammal threatens them, they may pull their neck in, fluff up their feathers, and walk toward the intruder. Threats are also met with bill clattering and jabbing. Despite the myth that Wood Storks mate for life, pairs form at the breeding colony and stay together only for a single breeding season.

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Teenagers doing what they do best.

I’ve read that water levels affect their nesting rates. When levels are low, they have fewer offspring. Well, we did have a wet year last year!

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Just amazing to see (and hear and smell) this many birds in one place.

Bird Island is part of our town, Sewall’s Point. Here is a brief history of the island and a list of species observed, on the town website: Bird Island.

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Young stork, Brown Pelican and Black Vulture on the beach.

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Spoonbills and stork. I guess the juvenile storks start feeding on the island. I have not see the adults feed there – they fly off to other shallow waters, usually inland, usually fresh water.

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I was shooting into diffuse light, so these pics aren’t that great, but I wanted to show how many Magnificent Frigatebirds were in the trees on the northwest side of the island. I have been told that this is not a confirmed nesting site for frigate birds. I’m mildly skeptical… but humble about the limits of my bird knowledge.

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All together now, what a place!

More on Bird Island…

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch: Sewall’s Point is for the Birds!

Visit Bird Island with Sunshine WildlifeTours

My blog: Bird Island Bird Spies; Bird Island from a boat; Boating near Bird Island.

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Meyer Art Originals Wood Stork print

Other wings

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We interrupt Bird Blog to bring you Backyard Butterflies.

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I planted a Corkystem Passion Vine and the Zebra Longwings found one of their favorite host plants in a few days.

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Monarch butterfly alights at the tip of a Simpson’s stopper.

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Many monarchs are year-road residents in south Florida and do not migrate… because they don’t have to.

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This Zebra Longwing laid eggs on this leaf at the tip of the passion vine, then folded the leaf over to protect the eggs.

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Wood Stork flies over our backyard. “Not a lot of places you can see this,” I said to my husband who was sitting in the adirondack chair next to me.

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Wood Storks have been building nests on nearby Bird Island, flying back and forth to our little peninsular town for branches. They can also be seen spiraling overhead with vultures and sometimes a frigate bird or two.

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A Red-bellied Woodpecker clings to our backyard coconut tree.

Bird Island bird spies

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Ahoy, Bird Island!

Four of us old friends, aboard a 21-foot Hurricane deck boat nicknamed “Little Tanny” for the color of its canopy, went exploring yesterday.

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We stayed outside these signs that mark the boundary of the rookery/ bird sanctuary on an island in the Indian River Lagoon just to the east of Sewall’s Point, FL.

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Arrow points to the location of the little island full of birds.

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Roseate Spoonbills caught our attention with their bright pink wings.

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According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill. Groups sweep their spoonbills through shallow fresh or salt waters snapping up crustaceans and fish.

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Brown Pelican and spoonbill.

  • Roseate Spoonbills get their pink coloration from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink.

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Bird Island is a special place… for birds with preposterous bills.

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Roseate Spoonbills nest in colonies with egrets, ibises, and herons, typically on islands or over standing water. They nest in mangroves, Brazilian pepperbush, willows, sea myrtle, and other shrubs near the water. They tend to put their nests in the shadiest part of the tree or shrub, up to 16 feet high.

They lay 1 to 5 eggs, incubate them for 22 days, and the chicks stay in the nest for 35 to 42 days. There are just a few spoonbills on Bird Island right now.

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A mild chaos of comings and goings. Wood storks are nesting in greatest numbers.

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Yesterday morning, on a walk before boating, I got lots of photos (like this one) of Wood Storks that had flown the short hop from Bird Island to Sewall’s Point to break off branches for nesting material. (I will post those photos later.)

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Wood Stork in flight.

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Wood Storks showing off their best side.

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Next: a very exciting find, spotted by Lisa, a Reddish Egret, a first for me!

A medium to large heron of shallow salt water, the Reddish Egret comes in a dark and a white form. It is a very active forager, often seen running, jumping, and spinning in its pursuit of fish.

And…

There is little information on Reddish Egret population trends or numbers, but the species appears to be declining. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental population of 6,000-10,000 breeding birds, rates the species about a 15 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. Reddish Egret is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.

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John maneuvered the boat around to the northwest side of the island and we spotted a few Magnificent Frigatebirds, usually seen soaring high over the beach or ocean.

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This appears to be a nesting pair.

Males have a bright red pouch on the throat, which they inflate like a balloon to attract females. Females unlike most other seabirds look different than males with their white chest.

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The frigate bird with a white head is a juvenile.

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Frigatebirds, wood storks, cormorants… this mangrove tree has it all going on.

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  • The breeding period of the Magnificent Frigatebird is exceptionally long. Males and females incubate the eggs for around 56 days, and once hatched, chicks don’t leave the nest until they are about 167 days old. Even after they leave the nest, females continue to feed them until they are one year old.

Each pair only lays one egg.
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Not sure if this is a male or female. Maybe it is incubating an egg and the mate is away feeding.

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Magnificent Frigatebirds eat primarily flying fish, tuna, herring, and squid, which they grab from the surface of the water without getting wet. They also eat plankton, crabs, jellyfish, and other items on the surface of the water including discarded fish from fishing boats.

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The young ‘un.

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Frigatebirds soar effortlessly over the ocean rarely flapping their long, pterodactyl-like wings and using the long tail to steer. Though they are frequently seen soaring, they are masters of pursuit. They chase other birds including frigatebirds, forcing them to regurgitate their recent meal, which they scoop up before it hits the water. Their gracefulness ends as soon as they head towards land, where they awkwardly perch in low shrubs and trees. Their strong toes help them hold onto branches, posts, and boat masts, but their small feet in combination with their short legs makes it nearly impossible for them to walk on land. On land, males often flutter the balloonlike throat sac (or “gular pouch”) to cool off. Males and females also regulate their body temperature by holding up their wings up to sun themselves. To get airborne, they flap a few times and use the wind to help lift them into the air.

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Meanwhile, a few branches away, Wood Storks are cuddling.

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They almost make this Great Blue Heron look small.

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Wood Storks and Magnificent Frigatebirds.

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We watched these birds for a while then traveled south to Peck Lake and the Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge and later up the St. Lucie River to downtown Stuart. Lots of boat traffic but it was still a nice way to spend a day on the water.

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Last bird I photographed on Bird Island: an Anhinga.

 

Bird Island from a boat

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Roseate Spoonbill on Bird Island yesterday.

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Must look good for breeding season.

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Great Blue Heron.

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Big feet on that bird.

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We borrowed a boat from our boat club in Manatee Pocket yesterday and took a ride up the Indian River Lagoon to the rookery just off Sewall’s Point known as Bird Island.

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It is Wood Stork nesting season. They appear to still be building nests. I have not seen chicks yet.

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The Snowy Egrets are in breeding plumage and acting flirty.

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Showing off.

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I have never seen them like this.

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Always surprising the variety of breeds sharing space on this island.

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My sister and brother-in-law were in town and we all watched birds from the boat.

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Incoming Wood Stork.

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A rather skull-like head.

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Wood Stork with wings up.

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Roseate Spoonbill again.

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Lots of Brown Pelicans on the island now too.

Boating near Bird Island

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Ahoy, a Magnificent Frigatebird. My husband loves these birds.

This one is immature, according to the ID photos on Cornell’s All About Birds.

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A Brown Pelican!

Boy, you don’t see many of those around here.  😉

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We borrowed a 21-foot center console fishing boat from our boat club down in Port Salerno. Radar our 20-month-old German Shepherd Dog came with us.

After trying a few fishing spots unsuccessfully, we pulled up on on a deserted island, swam the dog (he loves to fetch a ball), then we motored past Bird Island to see the sights.

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The sights included Roseate Spoonbills and I finally got a few photos.

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Pretty in pink! Here’s one with a Great Blue Heron. I spotted a total of three.

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Bird Island is a spoil island in the Indian River Lagoon, created years ago (1950s? 1960s?) from dredging the Intracoastal Waterway. Mangroves grew on it and birds began nesting here.

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A bizarre wading bird of the southern coasts, the Roseate Spoonbill uses its odd bill to strain small food items out of the water. Its bright pink coloring leads many Florida tourists to think they have seen a flamingo.

The spoonbill is Florida bird #53 for me.

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But the coolest thing was seeing baby Wood Storks!

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Just across the channel is the town of Sewall’s Point, Florida. This house is closest to Bird Island. If I lived there I’d be out on one of the balconies every day with binoculars… or maybe I’d even invest in a scope.

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Do not pester the birds. We didn’t.

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Radar was bird watching too.

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According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife North Florida Ecological Office…

The wood stork is a highly colonial species usually nesting in large rookeries and feeding in flocks.  Age at first breeding is 3 years but typically do so at 4.  Nesting periods vary geographically.  In South Florida, wood storks lay eggs as early as October and fledge in February or March.  However, in north and central Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, storks lay eggs from March to late May, with fledging occurring in July and August.  Nests are frequently located in the upper branches of large cypress trees or in mangroves on islands.  Several nests are usually located in each tree.  Wood storks have also nested in man-made structures.  Storks lay two to five eggs, and average two young fledged per successful nest under good conditions.

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Small fish from 1 to 6 inches long, especially topminnows and sunfish, provide this bird’s primary diet.  Wood storks capture their prey by a specialized technique known as grope-feeding or tacto-location. Feeding often occurs in water 6 to 10 inches deep, where a stork probes with the bill partly open.  When a fish touches the bill it quickly snaps shut.  The average response time of this reflex is 25 milliseconds, making it one of the fastest reflexes known in vertebrates.  Wood storks use thermals to soar as far as 80 miles from nesting to feeding areas.  Since thermals do not form in early morning, wood storks may arrive at feeding areas later than other wading bird species such as herons.  Energy requirements for a pair of nesting wood storks and their young is estimated at 443 pounds of fish for the breeding season (based on an average production of 2.25 fledglings per nest).

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A birdy place.

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A Wood Stork, Mycteria americana.

Birdwatching with my niece

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Birds are nesting on Bird Island, in the Indian River Lagoon, a few blocks and an open channel away from my home.

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My seven-year-old niece was visiting with her parents and little sister and one afternoon last week we went birding.

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She was into it.

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She liked the binoculars and learned to use them quickly.

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We could see Wood Storks with nesting material.

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So many large birds perching and nesting on top of the mangove trees.

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Pelicans, cormorants and egrets are there now too, with a few vultures waiting for an opportunity to dine.

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Clean up crew.

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Birds everywhere!

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Next we went to Sandsprit Park looking for parrots but didn’t find any. We did spot a big bird “fishing”.

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This Great Blue Heron was quite comfortable around a fisherman at the end of a dock.

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My niece was thrilled at the bird’s size and beauty.

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A Great Blue Heron is not something she sees often in her Philadelphia suburb.

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“He’s so pretty!”

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GBH: Largest of the North American herons with long legs, a sinuous neck, and thick, daggerlike bill. Head, chest, and wing plumes give a shaggy appearance.

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Big feet!

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We saw other birds in the park too, including this clever crow taking bags out of the trash and rolling them around to see if there was any food left in them.

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In Manatee Pocket, a pelican caught a fish.

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We drove to a neighborhood in Port Salerno near Pirate’s Cove where I had seen parrots a few times before and… bingo! Quaker Parrots, aka Monk Parakeets.

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“My goal is to see parrots this vacation,” my niece had told me a couple of days before. We high-fived each other.

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It may come as a surprise to see noisy, green-and-gray parrots racing through cities in the U.S. But Monk Parakeets, native to South America but long popular in the pet trade, established wild populations here in the 1960s. They are the only parrots to nest communally; dozens live together year-round in large, multifamily stick nests built in trees and on power poles.

We saw 8 or 10 flying around and they appeared to be nesting in a cabbage palm covered in viney vegetation.

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Monk Parakeets are very social, spending their whole lives living in bustling colonies of dozens of individuals. Every morning they leave their nests to forage, spending the day climbing through trees (sometimes using their beaks as a climbing aid) or dropping to the ground in search of food. At dusk they all gather back at the nests to roost, both during the breeding season and after it is over.

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Monk Parakeets were introduced to the U.S. in the 1960s via the release or escape of pet birds. Since then their numbers have grown and they now occur in several cities including San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Providence, Miami, and St. Petersburg. They are also numerous in their native South America. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 20 million, with 3% of these in the U.S. and none in Canada or Mexico. The species rates a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Monk Parakeet is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Historically, most management efforts toward Monk Parakeets, both in the U.S. and in South America, have been directed at curbing their populations because of their reputation as an agricultural pest. As it turns out, their populations have persisted but have not spread, and in the U.S. there are no longer active programs to control their numbers.

I guess we have learned to live with these noisy, pretty little green birds.

Looking up at Wood Storks

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Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away! (Sing it, Frank.)

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Today was a Wood Stork Day here in Sewall’s Point, with so many of these large white and black birds wheeling overhead on thermals.

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That’s quite a wingspan, 60 to 65 inches.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

Wood storks use thermals to soar as far as 80 miles from nesting to feeding areas. Since thermals do not form in early morning, wood storks may arrive at feeding areas later than other wading bird species such as herons. Energy requirements for a pair of nesting wood storks and their young is estimated at 443 pounds of fish for the breeding season (based on an average production of 2.25 fledglings per nest).

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Florida Audubon says…

The Wood Stork is one of Florida’s signature wading birds, a long-legged, awkward-looking bird on land that soars like a raptor in the air.

American Bird Conservancy

These social storks nest colonially, with up to 25 nests in one tree. Pairs often mate for life.

In Florida, Wood Storks breed during the late winter dry season, when their fish prey are concentrated in shrinking pools. They regularly fly up to 12 miles from the nesting colony while foraging and will go much farther during droughts in search of food.

 

Feeling nesty

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Smile and say, “Wood stork nesting season!”

I went for a walk around the neighborhood with my bird camera yesterday. Snapped these pics on Oakwood Drive in Sewall’s Point.

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Wood Storks were in live oak trees collecting branches to fly back to their nesting site, probably just across a small channel of water on Bird Island in the Indian River Lagoon.

Funny to see these very large birds balanced atop trees in people’s front and back yards.

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Palms, moon, bird and plane over Oakwood.

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Wood Storks are lovely in flight.

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With those pretty feathers, graceful wings and ugly bald head, the Wood Stork is really Beauty and the Beast in one bird.

A large, white, bald-headed wading bird of the southeastern swamps, the Wood Stork is the only stork breeding in the United States. Its late winter breeding season is timed to the Florida dry season when its fish prey become concentrated in shrinking pools.

Hawk and stork

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Broad-winged hawk in our tree again. At least I think it’s a Broad-winged Hawk.

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I could hear it calling from inside the house so I went out with my camera.

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Lately Wood Storks have been spiraling above our backyard, sometimes mixed in with flocks of vultures! I don’t think they are deliberately associating… just riding thermals together.

Hunter’s Moon and… wood storks?

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You can’t see any birds in this photo but they are there, finding their secret night time roosting spots. Almost-full Hunter’s Moon was rising over the pond last night as I took the dog for one last walk.

Our contingent buyers got their house under contract and we now have a closing date of November 30. Hard to think of saying good-bye at the most crazy beautiful time of year. I will close my eyes and think of the wretched cold, gray, months-long winter plus mud season instead. And of new adventures.

We are making an offer on a house in Florida’s Treasure Coast. Soon I will be learning some strange new birds…

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Like the Wood Stork.

A large, white, bald-headed wading bird of the southeastern swamps, the Wood Stork is the only stork breeding in the United States.

I took these photos on our vacation last April. A spoil island in the Indian River Lagoon in Stuart, FL has been adopted by nesting birds of all sorts. It is a very short boat or kayak ride from the neighborhood we hope to live in.

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Arrow points to Bird Island. The town/peninsula of Sewall’s Point is our hoped-for new location.

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In April, we went on a pontoon boat nature tour and had lunch next to this island, watching storks, brown pelicans, white ibis, spoonbills, snowy egrets, cormorants, night herons, osprey, and even a few magnificent frigatebirds!

Will this be in my new “backyard”? …

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A bizarre wading bird of the southern coasts, the Roseate Spoonbill uses its odd bill to strain small food items out of the water. Its bright pink coloring leads many Florida tourists to think they have seen a flamingo.

Flamingo? We will not make that mistake, oh no.

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