MIAMI HERALD: Record rain led to bonanza year for Florida’s wading birds. Just not in the right places

Miami Herald: Written by Jenny Staletovich. March 29, 2018.

The record rain that pounded South Florida and left the state a sodden mess last spring had a silver lining: an explosion of wading birds.

Threatened wood storks, which nearly disappeared in the early 1980s, doubled their 10-year nesting average. Little blue herons and snowy egrets were up 62 and 54 percent, respectively. Even roseate spoonbills fell just slightly below a dismal average, which is better than plunging even lower.

But while the numbers were up, nesting patterns revealed that a troubling pattern continues. The birds appear to be giving up on the southern Everglades, once the bread basket for the state’s wading birds.

Spoonbills, which naturalist John James Audubon said were so numerous in Florida Bay when he visited in the 1830s that “the air was darkened by whistling wings,” had one of their worst nesting seasons in the bay on record. If the trend continues, researchers and conservationists worry they’ll follow the lead of wood storks, the gangly white and black-winged birds that once nested by the thousands in the Corkscrew Swamp. In the 1960s, the swamp was home to 7,000 nests each breeding season. Last year, just 250 nests were counted, with most of the Florida’s storks now nesting farther north.

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