Hundreds of sightings reported in search for missing painted stork from Safari Park

Bird missing since Monday

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - Several hundred possible sightings and counting, but a painted stork that flew away from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park remains missing.

The stork disappeared during a training exercise Monday.

Karen Cutler and her husband, James, believe they may have seen the bird, which disappeared during a training exercise on Monday.

The Cutlers took a walk near Loma Alta Creek Wednesday and something they saw startled them. Across the creek, about 60 yards away in the marsh, they saw the bird.

"It had long legs and a longer beak to me," said Karen Cutler.
 
It was a bird with dark-wing feathers standing about 3 feet tall.

"It's just odd because I haven't seen another bird like that around here," said James Cutler.

The next day, when they saw the photo of the painted stork missing from Safari Park, they quickly phoned in the sighting.

The sighting is one of several hundred the park is investigating after the one-year-old stork, training for a bird show, got swept up in a wind gust Monday and flew away from the park.

Classified as a nearly threatened species by the website The Big Zoo, the painted stork is native to Asia. Park officials worry it may not have the coping skills to survive in the wild.

Active teams are searching bird-friendly habitats and investigating tips, but so far, there have been no confirmed sightings.

Most sightings have actually been either a snowy egret or a great blue heron.

The Cutlers have seen both and don't believe their bird is either. They point to one more clue.

The young missing bird isn't considered an expert at flying. As for the bird the Cutlers saw, "It seemed to struggle getting into the air," said Karen Cutler.

Eventually, the bird got airborne.

"Just got up, flew away, north into Oceanside downtown," said James Cutler.

The park says the birds in their shows are tagged, but this bird had just started training for its first show and had yet to be tagged.

Anyone spotting the bird is asked to send a photo to publicrelations@sandiegozoo.org or call 619-318-3348.


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