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In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

Event Highlights Why Birds Matter To The Everglades

Mac Stone Photography
Roseate spoonbills in Florida Bay. The birds sweep their distinctive bills in an arc through the water to dredge up fish and insects.

When it comes to the health of the Everglades, scientists often look to the birds. The healthier the ecosystem, the bigger the populations of wading birds like wood storks, spoonbills, egrets and herons.

Scientists say this year is shaping up to be a very good season for wading bird nesting, on the heels of a 2017 nesting season where some bird populations grew by 50 percent or more.

Read more: The Case of the (Not) Missing Flamingos: A South Florida Detective Story

At a discussion Thursday evening in Homestead, avian researchers will talk about what they're seeing in 2018 and why they're excited.

Lori Oberhofer, a National Parks Service biologist, says she's most excited about the number of white ibises. In her previous 17 years working in Everglades National Park, she'd never seen a "super colony." This year, she's seen two.

"The one here in the park had nearly 19,000 ibis," Oberhofer said. "It was nearly a mile long and just white with not only ibis, but wood storks, egrets, herons and spoonbills."

Oberhofer says a wet rainy season, a dry dry season and progress on Everglades restoration have resulted in more fish and crayfish to support the growing population.

Read more: Are We Making Progress On Everglades Restoration? Ask Florida's Wading Birds

In addition to Oberhofer, speakers include Mark Cook of the South Florida Water Management District, Peter Frederick from the University of Florida and Jerry Lorenz of the National Audubon Society.

The event is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Thursday at the William F. Dickinson Homestead Community Center, 1601 N. Krome Avenue, Homestead.