Wood Stork Mycteria americana
The earliest documented occurrence of Wood Stork in Duval County is from 9 April 1930 (Stevenson & Anderson, 1994), but these prehistoric looking birds have undoubtedly been around a much much longer than that. Today they are fairly common in the right habitat and can be found year round in the county. Your best bet is to stay in the eastern / coastal part of the county, where you can look for them in roadside retention ponds or even on some golf courses. I can virtually guarantee you will see them at or around the Jacksonville Zoo, where there is a naturally occurring, significant breeding colony each year beginning in March.
Another great place to check for them is the marshes along Heckscher Drive, at Alimacani Boat Ramp, and around Huguenot Memorial Park.
If you’ve never been to see the Zoo’s colony of breeding Wood Stork, it should be on your “must” list for things to do in Jacksonville. It is a wonderful experience and is really one of our local lesser-known treasures. The best time to go is anytime between March and May, where you will have a great chance of seeing hatchlings and immature birds. Although you won’t need them, bring your binoculars with you for better views (entrance fee required). The colony is in the Africa loop, and can be easily viewed on multiple sides from the elevated boardwalk…putting many nests at eye level or below.
This species’ breeding status in Duval County is a relatively recent event; in 1943, Grimes indicated there were no known breeding colonies in the county up to that date, but they were breeding within five miles of the county line in St. Johns County just to the south. Another known breeding area was in the cypress domes at Pumpkin Hill Preserve State Park, but that colony has been gone since at least 2003 when the area dried up. There was also a colony on the Dee Dot Ranch just south of J Turner Butler Boulevard, but the land owners are not cooperative in allowing any agency to come onsite to monitor it. For awhile, FWC at least confirmed continued existence via aerial photography, but I believe that practice dried up like the swamps of Pumpkin Hill.
Last updated 25 Jan 2019.