Wakodahatchee Wetlands is a park located in Delray Beach, Florida. The park was created on 50 acres of unused utility land and transformed into a recreation wetlands open to the public with a three-quarter mile boardwalk that crosses between open water pond areas, emergent marsh areas, shallow shelves, and islands with shrubs and snags to foster nesting and roosting.
The boardwalk has interpretive signage as well as gazebos with benches along the way. This site is part of the South section of the Great Florida Birding Trail and offers many opportunities to observe birds in their natural habitats.
I made a visit there recently, and was thrilled to see an enormous number of nesting wood storks, most with fledglings, and in parts of the park that traditionally was populated by other bird species. Large, white Wood Storks wade through southeastern swamps and wetlands. Although this stork doesn't bring babies, it is a good flier, soaring on thermals with neck and legs outstretched. This bald-headed wading bird stands just over 3 feet tall, towering above almost all other wetland birds. It slowly walks through wetlands with its long, hefty bill down in the water feeling for fish and crustaceans. This ungainly looking stork roosts and nests in colonies in trees above standing water.
Wood Storks occur only in a few areas in the United States, so to get a look at one, head to a wetland preserve or wildlife area along the coast in Florida, South Carolina, or Georgia. Wood Storks tend to be busily foraging with their head down and body held horizontally, but their large size should help them stand out amongst the other pale herons, ibises, and egrets in wetlands even if you can't see their hefty bill. If they aren't foraging in areas with standing water, check nearby trees for groups of roosting Wood Storks, or look up in the sky for soaring birds with black-and-white wings. They are mostly silent, but during the breeding season, sounds of begging chicks might help you find a colony. And the chicks and fledglings at Wakodahatchee Wetlands are making themselves known.
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