Late in December, about the same time federal wildlife officials were filing notice of their intention to take the wood stork off the endangered species list, wading bird experts at the South Florida Water Management District were finishing a report detailing the plight of the bird after three years of poor nesting.
In the Everglades National Park, “the federally endangered wood stork fared particularly poorly and it is thought that all 820 nests failed or were abandoned,” wrote Mark Cook, a scientist at the district and co-editor of the district’s annual South Florida Wading Bird Report.
There were similar findings at a wood stork rookery at the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority site near Jog Road and 45th Street.
“Of the 57 nests that were monitored over time, 15 were successful,” Rena Borkhataria and Mary Beth Morrison wrote in the report. “In contrast … the probability of a nest surviving for at least 90 days was nearly twice that of 2012.”
The bleakest report came from the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, where wood storks historically have nested in large numbers. The 2012 nesting season capped five years when the storks failed to breed there. Cook described it as an “unprecedented decline” that could indicate a “serious reduction” in foraging habitat for the wood stork.
The U.S. Department of the Interior published notice Dec. 26 that it intended to reclassify the wood stork from endangered to threatened and asked for public comment on its proposal. According to the department, the down-listing is justified because when the wood stork was put on the endangered list in 1984, the birds lived only in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. However, the wood storks’ breeding range has expanded and they are now also found in North Carolina and Mississippi.