Yes, it is true! Our March monitoring flight confirmed the presence of Wood Storks atop the Sanctuary’s bald cypress trees, including approximately 20 active nests. While this sounds like good news, this is only a small fraction of the nests seen historically in this colony. It is good news that this species has once again returned to the Sanctuary to nest, which means they are still giving us a chance and allowing time for our restoration and conservation efforts to improve nesting conditions throughout our region.
Unfortunately, Audubon data have shown that Wood Stork nests initiated prior to January 1 tend to be more successful than those initiated later. This is because of the fall in water levels across Southwest Florida in the winter and spring months, and the timing of the availability of fish (Wood Stork food) to feed hungry chicks. Wood Storks nested late this year because Tropical Storm Eta (November) and additional rainfall events in December kept water levels high in January and February.
Wood Stork eggs incubate for 30 days, and fledging occurs about two months after hatching. Wood Stork chicks are fast-growing and have large food requirements, their primary food being small fish and crayfish. The loss of shallow wetlands throughout our region means there are fewer places for Wood Storks to feed during periods of high water, and our landscape has less capacity to produce large concentrations of fish in the dry season when growing chicks need the most food. Did you know that an average Wood Stork family requires nearly 450 pounds of fish during a breeding season?
Audubon scientists will continue to monitor these nests and Wood Storks nesting at two other colony locations in Southwest Florida.