For immediate release
WOOD STORKS MAKE ANNUAL VISIT TO JACKSONVILLE ZOO AND GARDENS TO NEST
May 24, 2011 - Jacksonville, Fl -
The trees in the Plains of East Africa at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens are once again alive with the chirping of wood stork chicks. The wood storks have been building their nests annually at the Zoo since 1999. The Zoo’s bird staff collects data on each chick, including size and health information, then bands and returns them safely to their nests each year.
Wood storks are the only stork to breed in the United States. They also breed in Central and South America from Mexico to Argentina. The populations in the Southeastern United States are endangered, most likely because of the loss of optimal feeding habitat – easy access to shallow water where they have ready access to small fish. The Zoo’s monitoring and banding data is reported to the United States Department of Interior’s bird banding laboratory. The numbered bands allow researchers to identify individual storks as they move throughout the state and across their range. The data is used for research purposes and to compare with other sites across the range of the species to determine how well the recovery effort is going.
“The sights and sounds of the large wood stork rookery at our Zoo make for a uniquely incredible experience,” said Tony Vecchio, executive director of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. “We’re very pleased that these wonderful Florida natives have chosen to allow our guests a glimpse of this spectacle of nature. It’s almost like they sense that they will be safe and protected by those who are dedicated to conservation.”
The wood stork rookery at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has had the highest productivity rate of all the colonies in Florida since 2003. Since 1999, 1,241 endangered wood storks have fledged, and another 260 are expected to fledge this year at the Zoo’s colony. The rookery has grown from seven nests the first year to more than 116 nests this season.
Wood storks are tall, white denizens of freshwater or brackish wetlands and swamps. They can be identified by their long legs, featherless heads and prominent bills. They fish with an unusual but effective method: Opening their bills underwater, they wait for a fish to pass by then snap – like a mousetrap, the bill is closed.
For more than 96 years, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has been dedicated to inspiring discovery and appreciation of wildlife through innovative experience in a caring environment. Since its beginning in 1914, with an animal collection that consisted of only one red deer fawn, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has become one of the top zoos in the nation. It now features more than 1,800 rare and exotic animals and over 1,000 unique plant species. Preservation of sustainable biodiversity is a key mission of the Zoo. The Zoo is a non-profit organization and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It is open year-round, seven-days-a-week, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is located on Jacksonville’s north side at 370 Zoo Parkway, one-half mile east from I-95. For more information, go to jacksonvillezoo.org.