JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- JEA and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens have joined forces to save juvenile wood storks. The teaming comes after word of several birds getting electrocuted on power lines.
According to JEA, the problems began after the zoo created an overflow parking lot and retention pond and exposed power lines that previously had been buried in the woods. Young wood storks testing their wings were, then, flying toward the retention pond, oblivious of the distribution line. Their legs would clip the lines and the birds would be electrocuted. Four young wood storks and two Canada geese died this way.
"They're gangly when they fly, the little ones, and in addition if you don't see a power line out in the middle of the air because you're not expecting it, it's very easy to hit," said Donna Bear-Hull, Curator of Birds at the Jacksonville Zoo.
The zoo called JEA for help. JEA considered burying the distribution line, but quickly realized that would take too long. Instead, it decided to try something new: flight diverters.
"These are pretty simple devices," said Andrew Sears, JEA Senior Environmental Scientist. "They're like little dart boards with a reflector in the center of them. All that they do is they just make that line visible. You know, it's difficult for me to see that power line and certainly birds would have trouble spotting it."
In addition to the flight diverters, the zoo decided to create a heritage long leaf pine forest in a portion of the new overflow parking lot using trees that were donated by a local garden club. Zoo officials say this also helped save the birds because the area is less open and birds are less attracted to the area.
Wood storks are an endangered species in the United States that began using the zoo as a rookery after showing up there on their own in 1999. The zoo keeps a careful eye on the wood storks - even banding them for future identification.
They are native to the Southeast and come to Florida every winter to roost. The birds were put on the endangered species list because a loss of habitat had begun to take its toll on the wood stork population. Scientists think there may be as many as 10,000 pairs of wood storks now.