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White Ibis Nesting Colony. and more art by Mark Cook

White Ibis Nesting Colony. , 2021
40 x 60 x 1 inch (h x w x d)
Photography

Part of a large colony of about 6000 White Ibis nests in the A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in the northern Everglades. The record rainfall of late fall in 2020 helped to trigger one of the largest White Ibis nesting events since the 1940s, with about 60,000 ibis nests in total throughout the Everglades. The wetter than average conditions helped produce a population explosion of crayfish which fuel large nesting events. The wet conditions were followed by a relatively dry winter and spring, which caused water levels to drop and the prey to move from drying areas into smaller and smaller pockets of remaining water, thereby concentrating them at high densities for easy fishing by the birds. This is only the second time since the 1940s that ibis nesting has been so productive. The last occurrence was in 2018, another year with very wet antecedent conditions.

Such large nesting aggregations not only benefit the birds but are also important for healthy ecosystem function. As top predators, wading birds play an important role in shaping their aquatic prey communities, and are critical for transporting and concentrating nutrients and energy in this very low nutrient system (consider how much guano is deposited at a colony containing tens of thousands of adults plus their rapidly growing nestlings!). Wading birds (primarily the chicks) are also important prey for the American Alligator, which rely on large nesting events to gain enough energy and nutrients for their own successful breeding. Alligators are ecosystem engineers in the Everglades in that they construct the deep ponds (alligator holes) that help support aquatic life (fish, turtles, otters, etc.) during the dry season. These large ibis nesting aggregations therefore provide a keystone function in the Everglades given the critical ecological interactions they provide. The Everglades ecosystem will benefit if these nesting events can be recovered on a more frequent basis.



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other works by Mark Cook

Birds Eye View, 2021
60 x 40 x 1 inch (h x w x d)
Photography

Shark Love, 2020
24 x 36 x 1 inch (h x w x d)
Photography

Flagship Species, 2021
40 x 60 x 1 inch (h x w x d)
Photography

Gator in the Bay, 2020
48 x 32 x 1 inch (h x w x d)
Photography

Coastal Bald Eagle Nest, 2021
32 x 40 x 1 inch (h x w x d)
Photography

Pages

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