Rockin’ at the Rookery
by Doreen S Damm
Spring has sprung and with our mild winter, many of us have already visited our local nurseries. Well, there is one nursery you may have overlooked. While there are plenty of plants, it is not that kind of nursery. This little known nursery is in the heart of Port Richey right off Embassy Blvd just before U.S. 19. The difference is, this nursery does not sell plants. It is filled with Wood Storks, Great Egrets and a few other water birds that enjoy the safety of raising their young in large groups. These groups of nesting birds are known as rookeries. The rookery provides a protected breeding and nesting area for the birds. Its close proximity to both fresh and brackish water sources as well as the Gulf of Mexico makes it convenient for these water birds to feed their young.
Wood Storks begin breeding in Florida during the dry season that provides the best fishing. A pair of nesting Wood Storks with two fledglings can consume over 400 pounds of fish, that’s a lot of trips to the fishing grounds. They can lay up to five eggs which both the male and female will take turns incubating. The young will start hatching in about a month. These tiny hatchlings grow quickly and, like their parents, are quite large. You can enjoy watching the family raise their young before they fledge which is usually two months after hatching. Wood Storks are endangered throughout the United States due to the loss of optimal feeding habitats.
Great Egrets are a sight to see when dressed in their best breeding plumage for which they were hunted to near extinction in the late nineteenth century. Masked with the lime green facial skin, they perform elaborate mating dances. Like their neighbors, they too lay up to five light blue eggs, which hatch in about four weeks. The Great Egret chicks are very aggressive toward one another. Known as “siblicide,” larger chicks often kill their smaller siblings. They will leave the nest closer to six weeks of hatching.
If you go, please be respectful of the common area and do not disturb the birds. The fenced, protected Rookery is just off Shoppers Way Lane.
Read more about these magnificent birds at:
Doreen S. Damm
Nature Photographer &