Words by Tess Becker
Wood storks populate the waters throughout Florida. They’re thin and graceful fishing birds that call places like Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve home, but they were nearly extinct in 1984.
After concerted conservation efforts, particularly with habitat restoration efforts in the southern US, the bird is on the verge of being taken off the endangered list altogether.
In 1984, there were only about 5,000 mating pairs in the wild and now there are over 10,000. At its peak, the wood stork had about 20,000 nesting pairs.
“The wood stork is recovering as a result of protecting its habitat at a large scale,” said Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz. “This iconic species has rebounded because dedicated partners in the Southeast have worked tirelessly to restore ecosystems, such as the Everglades, that support it.”
The wood stork has also expanded its range from mostly in and around Florida to as far as coastal areas of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
Even if it is delisted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Clean Water Act, and state environmental regulations will continue to protect this species and the wetland habitats it depends upon. Also, the bird will be monitored for at least another five years to make sure that populations remain stable.