Bird watchers got a special treat this holiday season as a rare feathered friend flew over Cape Ann.
Photographers, bird watchers and the curious have flocked to the Cape Ann swamps to spot the rare sighting of a wood stork, most commonly seen in places such as Florida and South America.
“I was really lucky because the wood stork flew up to an opening in a swamp tidal pool where I could see its legs and feet in action,” local photographer Kim Smith wrote on its website about detecting this visitor. “This big, clumsy bird does an elegant dance, shaking its feet in the mud to stir the edible creatures.”
As she archived the young bird’s month-long visit, Smith explained that the stork is âreally very young; he still has a fluffy crown of budding feathers surrounding his face “
The Audubon Society explains that these birds feed by wading in shallow water with their heads down, their beaks in the water and partially open. When their prey – mostly fish – pass by, storks are able to quickly close their beaks to catch their next meal.
These particular types of storks breed in colonies. When they’re ready to make a nest, according to the Audubon Society, the male collects most of the material while the female does most of the construction.
With all this excitement, we have to ask ourselves: why is the wood stork here?
Smith explained that âthe juvenile wood stork is well outside its normal range. With a population of tens of thousands, only about 10,000 remain in the United States due to habitat loss, especially in the Florida Everglades. Juveniles disperse north after breeding, and birds increasingly nest further north.
A second wood stork was rescued from Horn Pond in Woburn, Smith said, adding that “maybe the two arrived with the storm that swept through October”. Smith said.
The National Park Service said on its website that these particular birds had traveled further north than the Everglades – their natural habitat – due to flooding and droughts.
“The accelerated development of water control structures and unnatural water supply schedules in the 1960s dramatically reduced bird numbers since that time,” the National Park Service website reads. . “In 1995, fewer than 500 pairs of wood storks were nesting in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida.”
If current trends continue, the wood stork may not be able to survive in South Florida.
But let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
As our visitor has since left the island, one can only wonder: where next?