Why The Woodstork Is Leaving The Everglades

Dec 19, 2012

Florida’s only wading bird on the endangered species list, the wood stork, is on the mend.  From a low of about 2,500 nesting pairs in most of South and Central Florida in 1984, the bird has since grown to around 7,000 to 9,000 nesting pairs. 

But it doesn't mean all is well with the Everglades.

The wood stork has left much of the Everglades, once home to 20,000 wood stork pairs.  The Miami Herald writes that “bulldozers and flood-control policies destroyed marshes and changed seasonal wet and dry cycles.” 

Finding the Everglades less hospitable, the storks have moved to neighboring states and adapted to suburban areas, foraging in golf courses or retention ponds.  A little over half of wood stork pairs now live in Florida. 

The wood stork numbers are up - but not without big changes in its range and habits. The endangered bird has largely left the Everglades, once home to a significant number of nesting pairs.
Credit Kenneth Cole Schneider

Should this adaptation be cheered or lamented? 

Not surprisingly, environmentalists and developers disagree.  Property rights advocates say the numbers show that the species is healthy and ready to shed its protected status.  Environmentalists argue that the bird’s range and habits are so different that it’s too early to reduce its protections. 

Federal wildlife managers say they intend to place the bird on a less protected status to “threatened” instead of “endangered,” though this change will still take at least several months.