June 23, 2009

Wood storks reproducing well this year

Observers in South Florida say 2009 has been a good year for the wood stork, with an estimated 3,500 young birds expected to fledge.

Last year, no young birds survived in a season when the area was hit by a drought, the Miami Herald reported. Scientists say that may have sent potential parents into overdrive this year.

''We haven't seen this kind of nesting efforts and eggs laid since the

1930s,'' said Dean Powell, of the South Florida Water Management District.

The storks, which were down to 2,500 pairs in 1978, are the only wading bird in Florida on the U.S. endangered species list.

The Pacific Legal Foundation and Florida Homebuilders Association is pushing to have the bird's status upgraded to threatened, The numbers this year are expected to give them ammunition.

Environmentalists say the bird's future is still uncertain because changes in the Everglades have fragmented the population into small groups in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, two states where it was formerly unknown.