Wood Storks, etc. at Mississippi River Nature Weekend

2009 August 25
by David J. Ringer

VICKSBURG, MISS. — I got my first real taste of Mississippi birding this weekend at the Mississippi River Nature Weekend, hosted by the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, Tara Wildlife, and Audubon Mississippi. Wood Storks and other wandering waders were the stars of the avian show.


Sloughs, oxbow lakes, and borrow pits along the Mississippi River provide feeding and roosting areas for ibises, herons, egrets, storks, Anhingas, Least Terns, Black Terns, and many other species.


A Wood Stork, Mycteria americana. Wood Storks don’t breed in Mississippi, but they disperse here in late summer after the breeding season is done. This species ranges widely through the Neotropics, but the population that breeds in Florida and up the east coast to North Carolina is listed as endangered due to habitat loss and ecological disruptions.


Wood Storks feed in groups, dragging open bills through shallow water. When they contact fish or other aquatic prey, a reflex action snaps their bills shut in an incredible 25 milliseconds! (More info)


This group of about 70 Wood Storks was soaring high on the late-afternoon thermals.


This bird’s yellowish bill indicates that it is still young. The bill will darken as it ages.


Note the little Loggerhead Shrike hanging out with the big kids.


Throughout the weekend, guided tours and walks helped people get up close and personal with the habitats and creatures of the region. Here, as Acadian Flycatchers call overhead, a group stops to examine large spiders in the bottomland hardwood forest.


And here she is, a spectacular Golden Silk Orbweaver, Nephila clavipes. Note the golden color of the individual web strands. This is a large and impressive spider that we found in fairly dense concentrations in parts of the forest. It’s related to this orbweaver that I saw in Australia last year.


Mayflies caught our attention by perching all over the buildings and our bodies. I think this exquisite animal belongs to the genus Hexagenia — any thoughts?



Fiesty Ruby-throated Hummingbirds patrolled the feeders and gardens. They are starting to assemble and store up fat in preparation for their incredible journey across the Gulf of Mexico. Speaking of hummingbirds, I’ll be attending the Hummingbird Migration Celebration at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in northern Mississippi Sept. 11-13. If you’re in the area, stop by!

Related posts:

  1. Sandpipers, plovers, and storks — oh my!
  2. Touring the Mississippi River delta
  3. Painted Redstart in Ocean Springs, Mississippi!
  4. Big river birds make for great CBC
  5. The nature of seeing
5 Responses
  1. August 25, 2009

    Fantastic introduction to your new digs! Wow! I hope you’re enjoying things in Mississippi–It certainly looks that way.

    The orbweaver is such a beautiful creature… That has to be my favorite.

    I’m no expert, but your Mayfly looks like Hexagenia limbata.

    The hummingbirds are already amassing here in Texas. I’ve noticed more of them recently: more of the less common species and a lot more of the common species like ruby-throats. It’s getting to be that time of year…

  2. August 25, 2009

    So now do you get paid to go birding??

    • August 26, 2009

      Oh, good question. I’m curious about that as well.

    • David J. Ringer permalink*
      August 26, 2009

      Um, yes. Not all the time of course, but events like this will be a part of my job. :)

  3. Kelly permalink
    March 23, 2010

    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful pictures of the Wood Storks!
    I didn’t know they existed until I saw them at Fort DeSoto when we went on vacation to the beach. I saw all of these large white birds taking in the sun, so I grabbed my camera and shooed everyone else off to the beach. There were 8 Wood Storks, and 9 white Egrets and a Great Blue Heron all hanging out, then a flock of white Ibis came walking through.
    I got some great pics and then asked the passing Park Ranger what kind of birds those were and he didn’t know!
    Love these Wood Storks!

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