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    Posted July 23, 2014 by
    Pawleys Island, South Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Travel snapshots: Best bird-watching

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    It's No Wonder These "Magnificent Flyers" Have Been an Endangered Species


    Until only a few weeks ago Wood Storks, AKA "Magnificent Flyers"  have been classified as Endangered.  They were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1984 and remained there until June 30, 2014.  

    They're still designated as "threatened" in South Carolina and  "uncommon globally," as the species' unique parenting habits further challenge a Wood Stork chicks fight for life.

    This is the only species of stork that breeds in the US, and one group chooses only the warm southeast and specifically the coast.

    Their beautiful form when flying, with their neck and legs fully extended has earned them the designation, "The Magnificent Flyer."

    This elongated flying form differentiates them from other wading birds and I was able to catch this one flying home to roost on Pawleys Island, SC just as the sun was tinting the clouds a soft peach color.
    If you happen upon one wading in a marsh or pond for food, preening in a tree, or in this case flying you can't help but marvel at their size and the stark black feathers that create a distinct outline on their glossy white wings. They are the largest wading birds in South Carolina and stand 3-4 feet high with a whopping five foot wing span.

    Young Wood Storks retain some of their fluffy down feathers on their face and necks, but the adults, have never been called beautiful to my knowledge as they are bare of feathers  so they're sometimes referred to as, "flintheads." The beak on this particular stork is slightly curved, which is another way to tell that this is an adult.
    Here, they nest March through August and must devote over two months to their hatched clutch of 1-5 babies, so there's still time to make the trip and try to catch a glimpse of these magnificent birds.
    They prefer the coast and to be near water and I frequently see them resting and preening in trees alongside Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons just before sunset.

    Those charged with increasing and enriching the nesting grounds in the southeast for these birds told me they worked hard at one particular site to build special platforms over the marshy grasses where they prefer to raise their young.

    Ironically, alligators also cruise these same waters but they keep tree climbing raccoons and foxes from invading a nest of eggs or babies so it's a symbiotically strange partnership.

    They said the adults investigated the new and perfect platforms, then ventured out into the trees along the edges to construct their own perfect nests, in the perfect spots that they picked.  Perfectly.
    If weather, including rainfall, temperatures, and consequently the amount of available food isn't perfect for the picky parents, they will abandon the eggs or the infants so South Carolinians have been working hard to provide substitute habitats and improve the natural ones to restore their numbers.
    In 2011, a Wood Stork Recovery Plan became available prepared by the University of GA and the USFWS. 

    For more information and if you're interested in supporting their preservation, it can be viewed online at, http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/Wood Storks.

    With so many things against the successful breeding, suitable nests in suitable habitats, and raising such a large and hungry clutch for so long, it's always a wonderful surprise to see a small flock - or even one lone Wood Stork in its natural environment.

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