Audubon Florida has substantial concerns about Wood Storks throughout the Greater Everglades, the most important part of their range. Today’s announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) signaled their intent to downlist the Wood Stork from Endangered to Threatened.   

Audubon supports downlisting species once:

  1. the threats which led to population declines have been adequately addressed, and
  2. populations rebound, meeting or exceeding recovery thresholds adopted in the species’ USFWS Recovery Plan.

Unfortunately, these conditions have not yet been met for the stork in a large part of their historic range. Significant threats remain that would prevent recovery in South Florida.

The colony at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in the Western Everglades has historically been the largest and most consistent nesting colony in the US. However, storks have failed to nest at Corkscrew in five of the past six seasons. This season is likely to be another with no nesting. 

Habitat loss, specifically the loss of shallow wetlands which contribute to foraging opportunities early in the nesting season, are a primary cause of the Wood Storks’ decline in South Florida. The foraging functions provided by these shallow wetlands continue to receive inadequate regulatory protections.   

Florida and the federal government have invested billions of dollars in Everglades restoration, but a future Everglades absent a healthy Wood Stork population is the mark of failure. Recovery of this iconic bird – North America’s only native stork – in its traditional home in the Everglades is a worthy conservation goal.

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