National Geographic : 1964 Feb
KODACHROME© NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Masters of the air, wood storks become clumsy clowns when alighting, sometimes even missing the perch altogether. This bird, coming in for a landing, puts on the brakes with tail between legs and head thrust for ward. The species stands slightly taller than the white stork of European rooftops but has a shorter wing span. fore ten minutes had passed they found storks coming and going in all directions. As Sprunt expressed it, they were "carrying on like crazy!" They were also carrying sticks, the raw material for building nests. With the rattle of bills sounding in their ears, the two delighted men retreated. The 1961 nesting season was off to a good start. 306 In March, 1961, three months later, an es timated 6,000 pairs were busy raising a new generation of young at Corkscrew. The ban ner nesting season of 1960 was already being topped! But our lordly stork lives in a delicate balance with nature. Our high hopes were dashed again the next year, when extreme drought struck. And, as far as we know, not one wood stork nest was built in Florida in the season of 1961-62. The drought threatened even the existence of the Corkscrew Sanctuary: Wood fires al most encircled it, and were moving in until a providential rainstorm on June 15, 1962, put them out. With near-normal rainfall there after, the birds renested, and by January 16, 1963, the sanctuary held 3,000 nests. Disaster struck again last February, when a devastating storm killed some 60 percent of the young. But the storks renested and successfully raised at least 2,500 birds. Clear ly the wood stork had made another come back. There are now between 8,000 and 10,000 breeding pairs in Florida. Three Sanctuaries Hold Species' Future As far as the United States is concerned, the fate of this magnificent wading bird is tied to Florida. We may never again see the vast assemblages of the past, but the vigor with which these birds have multiplied in recent years demonstrates an encouraging ability to recover. The present problem is to preserve a sufficient number of breeding sites and feeding areas. Only three of the regularly used breeding sites-Corkscrew Swamp and two nesting colonies in Everglades National Park-are on land protected in permanent sanctuaries. All the others are on private property, and their future is not secure. The preservation of feeding grounds, such as Devil's Garden, Okaloacoochee Slough, and portions of the Fakahatchee Strand, is also vital. The huge, unspoiled wilderness of the Florida of a century ago is gone forever. Still, many large areas remain reasonably intact. A few of these have already been preserved as monuments to the state's natural beauty and exciting wildlife. The wood stork is a part of this heritage, and it will be well worth while to make special arrangements on its behalf. Once you have seen a flock of these great birds soaring against the brilliant blue of the warm winter sky, you will agree that our only stork should not be allowed to pass forever from the American scene.