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Wildlife on the BrinkSoutheast : Wood Stork
Wood StorkSpecies Gallery

Wood Stork
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Mycteria americana

STATUS: Endangered

HABITAT: Shallow marshes and coastal wetlands, such as tidal flats and pools

LIFE HISTORY: Forms large colonies to nest and feed, historically numbering several thousand. Nesting sites include cypress swamp trees and on mangrove islands. Fluctuating water levels concentrate prey in pools, aiding in feeding.

THREATS: Habitat loss due to hydro-management and other development

FORMER RANGE: Entire southeastern U.S. and parts of Texas


Wood storks feed by sense of touch in shallow, muddy waters, patiently sweeping their bills from side to side underwater as they amble through the wetlands. Their jaws snap shut within 25 milliseconds of sensing prey -- one of the quickest reflexes in the vertebrate world.
In the mid-20th century, as many as 15,000 breeding pairs formed massive colonies in south Florida's wetlands. Today, almost all these birds have left south Florida, and their overall population has dropped by more than half, due to water manipulation and habitat destruction.
In 2002, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to allow 5,000 acres of limestone mining in the Everglades -- the first phase of a long-term 25,000 acre mining plan -- which would further disrupt historic wood stork habitat. NRDC used the Endangered Species Act to overturn that decision in court. In its rejection of the Corps' destructive plan, the court wrote, "In three decades of federal judicial service, this Court has never seen a federal agency respond so indifferently to clear evidence of significant environmental risks related to the agency's proposed action."
Photos: Everglades © National Park Service; Florida panther © USFWS; wood stork © Ryan Hagerty, USFWS; red cockaded woodpecker © John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS; Cumberland rosemary © Marc Evans, KSNPC
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