The wood stork, an ungainly duckling among the Everglades' elegant wading birds, has been breeding in numbers unseen in decades.
Rain in the last crucial month of nesting season took a toll, leaving half the weakened fledglings prey for waiting gators. But even with that loss, preliminary surveys estimate that 3,500 will leave South Florida nests this year. Contrast that to the survivors last year: zero.
''We haven't seen this kind of nesting efforts and eggs laid since the 1930s,'' said Dean Powell, director of watershed management for the South Florida Water Management District, which compiles an annual population assessment of wading birds.
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