TOWNSEND, Ga. (AP) — The American wood stork, a bird scientists once feared would be extinct by the year 2000, has made such an impressive comeback that it's getting an official status upgrade 30 years after first being listed as an endangered species, the Obama administration said Thursday.
The tall, bald wading birds that nest in swamps and coastal marshes from Florida to the Carolinas are now a "threatened" species, a step up that indicates the wood stork is no longer considered at risk of extinction, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced during a visit to Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, home to a large wood stork colony on the Georgia coast.
"It's a day for good news about an iconic bird from the Southeast that is doing a great job of recovering," Jewell said, though she cautioned: "There's still important work to do before we can propose to remove it from the list altogether." Until then, threatened species receive essentially the same legal protections as endangered animals.
Standing nearly 4 feet tall with a wingspan of about 5 feet, the wood stork is the only stork species that nests in the U.S. The birds' survival depends on ability to nest in wetlands with an abundance of fish and trees surrounded by water to protect eggs from predators.