the White Birds of Port Richey


WHO ARE OUR FRIENDS THAT RESIDE ON SHOPPERS WAY BEHIND THE EMBASSY CROSSINGS PLAZAFor many years, our law firm had maintained an office in Port Richey, in the Embassy Crossings Shopping Plaza.  Embassy Crossings is located in Port Richey, and contains such notable occupants as the United States Postal Service, Ross, Books A Million, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and other large scale Retailers.

Behind the Embassy Crossings Shopping Center, is a short street that connects travelers to the Shopping Center named Shoppers Way.  Anyone who travels on Shoppers Way is certain to notice the large collection of white birds that congregate in a retention pond, along its border.

According to an Article in the St Petersburg Times, locals refer to the location as Embassy Roost.  Hundreds of white birds can be seen, perched in the cypress trees that rise out of the retention pond, which is surrounded by a 5’5” chain link fence.

Among the types of birds that reside in Embassy Roost include Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, and Anhinga.  Another 20 different species of birds will visit the area.  However, it is the Wood Storks that attract the most attention from those who witness this unusual place in Port Richey, in Florida.

Wood Storks are large birds with a wingspan reaching five feet.  The bird is mostly white but has black tail feathers.  The Wood Storks were placed on the federal endangered species list in 1984.

Billy Brooks, a biologist who works for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, states that in 2006, there were approximately 12,000 nesting pairs of Wood Storks in the United States.

Brooks says that the Wood Storks catch fish in the water using their sense of touch.  According to Brooks, the Wood Storks have a special ability called tacto-location.  The Stork places its slightly opened bill into the water.  When a fish touches it, the bill closes shut in approximately 25 milliseconds.  This is evidently one of the fastest reflexes recorded in a vertebrate.

According to the same St Petersburg Times Article, many of the Wood Storks are moving north, into Georgia and South Carolina, because of issues of drought and human development.

Ken Tracey of the West Pasco Audubon Society, states that the Storks will use alligators as a measure of protection against certain predators.

The Wood Storks of Embassy Roost usually perch in the cypress trees that strangle out of the retention pond.  The cypress trees, situated in the middle of the pond, are completely surrounded by water.  Any alligator that wanted to eat one of these birds would likely find them out of range, as it leaps from the green waters of the pond.  Any other predator, such as a raccoon, would have to traverse the waters of the pond, making them possible prey to the alligators.  Embassy Roost is a tremendous location and configuration for the protection of these birds from possible predators.

Mr. Tracey, “Raccoons can devastate an entire rookery in a single night”.

This writer recommends that anyone who has the opportunity to witness these birds to do so.  The location and the hundreds of birds that congregate in this location, faithfully, for many years, is surreal, in its presentation.  It is in many ways, a unique and rare, place on this planet.