Wood Storks in the CSRA

Wood Storks in the CSRA

By: Liam Wolff, Phinizy Research Intern

Wood Storks in the Rain Garden Pond, photo by Liam Wolff

Wood Storks in the Rain Garden Pond, photo by Liam Wolff

Wood Storks are a symbol of the south. These large waders, once endangered, are prehistoric in appearance with black and white plumage, a crusted, naked head, and an impressive stony bill. In the United States, Wood Storks are strictly found in wetlands on the coast and in the coastal plain in the southeast. In olden fiction, storks are the bird bringers of babies (no bees required). However, here at Phinizy, they are simply a signal for the start of migration. Although the Wood Storks breed in the CSRA, they are typically only seen across the Savannah River at the Silver Bluff Audubon Sanctuary during the Summer where they nest in a large colony. However, after the young are capable of flight a phenomena known as post-breeding dispersal occurs where the juvenile birds, occasionally accompanied by an adult, will wander from their typical loitering zone and explore new areas. What this means for Augusta and Phinizy is that we may see waders that are not usually seen here. In addition to Wood Storks, we may get wanderers such as Tricolored Heron, Glossy Ibis, and very rarely Roseate Spoonbill – 5 of which have decided to make Silver Bluff Audubon Sanctuary a rest stop on their adventure. Recently, there have been many Wood Storks meandering from their nesting grounds. In the past week more than ten individuals have graced Cattail Trail and the Rain Garden Pond here at Phinizy Swamp. Unfortunately, they won’t stay for much longer. Throughout the month of September, the Wood Storks will slowly begin to migrate south to the Tropics for the winter and by mid-October, there won’t be any more Wood Storks in Augusta. The CSRA is certainly lucky to have such a healthy colony of Wood Storks, which has benefited tremendously by the efforts of the Silver Bluff Audubon Sanctuary, who limit access to the ponds in which the storks breed.