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Wood Stork Nest Surveys

Wood storks were listed as endangered in 1984 following dramatic declines in breeding colonies in southern Florida. Wood stork nests were first documented in Georgia in 1965, and by the 1980s wood storks began nesting in increasing numbers in the state. Georgia now supports about 20 percent of the wood storks and nests in Mitchell CountyU.S. nesting population, which is about 10,000 breeding pairs. The recovery plan for the wood stork in Georgia includes monitoring reproductive success of nesting colonies and identifying potential threats.

The Nongame Conservation Section conducts aerial surveys each spring to identify and monitor nesting colonies. Stork nesting effort – the number of pairs that attempt to reproduce – fluctuates annually. However, 2010 was a record year for wood storks in Georgia, with a total of 2,696 nest starts in 28 colonies. These colonies were documented from the air, with the exception of Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, which is monitored from the ground.

A wet winter provided the water in a number of colonies that had been inactive in 2009. Two new colonies were also located in 2010. Nongame staff, with partners from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, St. Catherines Island and the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites Division monitored 11 colonies for productivity. Several small colonies failed completely but the larger colonies had a good year with high rates of productivity.

With more than 75 percent of all stork rookeries located on private land, the success of conservation efforts for this species will depend on landowners’ willingness to ensure the protection of viable freshwater wetland nesting sites.

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