2018 End of Season Report

This year’s nesting season was a bit more out-of-the-ordinary. Though we always joke around that we are not privy to their schedules, a typical pattern has emerged over the years allowing us to guesstimate fairly accurately about who is nesting when. What made this year unusual? The location of their nests! Of course the majority of the wading birds prefer nesting in the swamp, but far more ventured out over other parts of the zoo, particularly over the Lagoon and the pond in front of our Conservation Center. Multiple species have taken a liking to the tops of the Cabbage palm trees instead of nesting in the Live oaks and Bald cypress trees where we would prefer they nest. It is difficult to monitor the nests in the palms and those trees are not as resilient to the havoc nesting wading birds inflict upon it. 

Tricolored heron chicks Photo by Robert O’Toole

Regardless, the overall rookery was full of begging birds with a high fledgling success rate this year. The fishing must have been excellent.

  MAX ADULT MAX NEST MAX CHICK
Cattle egret 54 43 137
Great egret 151 124 148
Green heron 2 2 3
Little blue heron 41 34 46
Roseate spoonbill 94 59 96
Snowy egret 59 60 118
Tricolored heron 88 96 167
Wood stork 138 90 164
TOTALS: 627 508 879

As we manage the rookery to benefit the threatened species of concern, the Wood stork and Roseate spoonbill, the graph below shows how the zoo has been successful in improving the nesting habitat over the years. Wood storks first began nesting here in 2000 and spoonbills in 2010. An active Wood stork rookery over 10 years of age is extremely rare.

Cattle egrets are a roller coaster of nesting interest in our rookery. We are just fine with them not nesting here in large numbers as they have already colonized the rest of the planet! Great egrets and Tricolored heron nesting have remained stable and fairly consistent over the years, including this season. Snowy egret and Little blue heron nest numbers went down this year. These species are part of Florida’s Imperiled Species Management Plan through FWC.

Every rookery season is different here at the park and we look forward to next season already! We just need a couple months first to do some maintenance when the alligators and birds are not raging with breeding hormones.

5 Comments

  1. Christine Fusco Reply

    Will there be work in the rookery during the month of January? I was thinking of just taking an early trip down for a few days. Will the maintenance close the boardwalk or disturb the birds for pictures?

    • Gen Anderson Reply

      Our maintenance department will be working in the swamp next week as the weather looks promising to do so. Good thinking for asking! They have a couple weeks of work to do, but it may be broken up. Feel free to call me before your trip to confirm: 904-824-3337 x16

  2. Christina Gerson Reply

    I am so glad I found this post before driving so far for a photography session…any chance you could tag this info in an obvious place for the many photographers who frequent here?

  3. Christina Gerson Reply

    I am so glad I found this post before driving so far for a photography session. Any chance you could post this info in a more obvious place for the many other photographers who also love your place?

    • Gen Anderson Reply

      I recommend checking out our Typical Rookery Schedule which I just moved back up to the top!

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