San Diego Zoo Safari Park officials search North County for missing painted stork

SAN DIEGO - San Diego Zoo Safari Park officials are searching the North County on Wednesday for an exotic bird that got caught in a wind gust and flew away Monday afternoon.

The zoo's Christina Simmons said animal care staff are on the hunt for the painted stork, and area bird experts, such as the Audubon Society, have been alerted.

The general public hasn't been notified since most people won't know the difference between the native of South Asia and another type of stork, she said.

The website The Big Zoo describes the species as tall and slender, standing about 3 feet tall, and mostly white in color, with black and white markings on its wing and chest feathers, with light pink on its lower back and legs. The bird's bill is long, yellowish and slightly curved toward the end.

According to Bird Life International, painted storks are frequently found in India, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, but are disappearing from other southern Asian countries due to hunting, wetland drainage and pollution. The organization said the species is classified as near-threatened.

Painted storks feed on fish and, sometimes, frogs, in shallow waters.

Simmons said it's uncertain how far the painted stork could have flown because its usual range might not apply outside its normal habitat.

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