Video: Everglades make a comeback

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 12/11/2006 1:54:15 PM ET 2006-12-11T18:54:15

Sundown in the Florida Everglades, where thousands of wading birds are flocking to roost. After decades of environmental disasters here, it's a hopeful sight. Not long ago, there weren't many left.

For the last few years, birders and scientists have seen a lot more wading birds than usual. Most credit favorable weather patterns, but also say Everglades' water managers and biologists are now working together to create better feeding and nesting conditions.

"If we can get the restoration and the water conditions right, then I'm very optimistic that the population can increase," says Mark Cook, an environmental scientist with Florida Water Management.

Many birds disappeared when the Everglades were shrunk by rampant development. Spillways and canals which artificially control the water flow dried up feeding grounds and flooded nesting sites.

State officials now aim for a better balance in the water flow.

Every year, scientists fan out throughout the Everglades and other parts of Florida, looking for bird nests. We went with one team recently in search of roseate spoonbills.

Video: Sights & sounds By visiting nesting sites, biologists can measure the health of the bird populations.

This trip is to a remote island, where spoonbills have a nesting colony. Struggling through the thick mangrove roots, Audubon scientists count all the nests and all the eggs.

Spoonbills haven't done as well as other birds recently, but scientists aren't giving up. And even though they were pleased to find more than 55,000 nests for all wading birds this year, they say a lot more is needed to restore the Everglades.

"The problem with that is we're not seeing the federal money coming through as it was promised," says David Anderson, president of the Florida Audubon Society.

The improvements now being seen suggest even more is possible.

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