Tara Tanaka has a lovely video of parent and offspring of the Wood Stork (Mycteria americana), a colonial nester living in subtropical America. (Tara’s Vimeo page is here; her Flickr site is here). Here are Tara’s notes on the video:
Every February I keep looking for the first Wood Stork scouts to return to our swamp where they’ll soon begin gathering the many sticks they’ll need to build their sturdy nests. I recognize the first birds back each year – like old friends that you haven’t seen in a long time it’s always so wonderful to have them back. Sometimes when I’m in the yard and one soars by, I imagine that I’m in prehistoric times and there is no civilization around – just this magnificent creature in the sky.
It appears that we have a record number of Wood Stork nests this year – likely well over 300 – and they’ve even built two nests in a tree that we can see from the house – a welcome first. I shot the first three clips in this video sitting on the living room floor and shooting through a double-paned window. When early nest building is in full swing, it’s not unusual to have 3 or 4 storks walking around the yard looking for sticks. This time of year when many nests have growing nestlings, the parents seem to be bringing grape vines and other soft leaves to the nest. They also appear to be traveling to the coast, about 40 miles away, in small groups of 3-5 birds in order to feed, and we then see them flying in V-shaped formations back to feed their young.
As of June 6th we had at least 10 storks that had fledged, some of them quite good flyers already. As I’ve seen in previous years, I saw one newly-fledged bird balanced precariously in the top of a cypress tree, with a watchful parent in the top of the next tree. They continue to return to their nests for a number of weeks, and I think that the parents make sure they know where to go on their first flight or two. Their long pinkish toes aren’t made to grip, and they just drape them over branches, making balancing difficult even for adults – especially when they have to throw their weight back in order to break a branch from a larger limb. Their instinct to gather sticks is strong even when they’re young, and the cutest thing I’ve seen all season was a just-fledged stork flying with a tiny stick that he had collected, taking it back to his hopefully proud parents.