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Storks sighted in Oso Bay

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A flock of wood storks, numbering about 22 individuals, was sighted in Oso Bay around the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi campus on Thursday morning. These storks are uncommon in the area, although they are regularly sighted within the Florida everglades and South America. Occasionally, a flock, or “kettle” of wood storks is seen passing through the area during migration.

Two wood storks linger in the water (left) while two great egrets (right) roost nearby
Luis E. Diaz

Wood storks are large wading birds with no other North American relatives. Although many other local species are white with black wingtips, wood storks are distinct in their black, naked head with a thick, down-curved bill, large body size, and uncoordinated flight patterns – rather than the usual V formation of white pelicans – with legs trailing behind their bodies. No other local species is a strikingly odd and awkward-looking as the wood stork.

Storks are revered in many cultures, with the most well-known legend being their strong association with fertility. This belief is thought to have originated in Europe in the middle ages due to the storks' returning from migration in spring, approximately nine months after Midsummer's Day festivities. These storks would reuse to the same nest each year, giving the impression of marital fidelity, and care for their young longer than most species of birds. Moreover, European storks commonly nest on or near rooftops, likely generating the legend of storks dropping babies down the chimney.

Wood storks Mycteria americana are certainly just as inspiring as their European counterparts, forming massive nests in treetops in Florida and the far southeastern states. Regionally, these US storks are endangered, although - as a species – wood storks are globally abundant. However, our American storks are less amenable to human activity than European storks, and need to be protected so the effects of rapid alteration of habitats do not harm these magnificent birds.

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