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Wood Storks: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Kenneth Cole Schneider via Flickr creative commons

Wood Storks are one of Florida’s most iconic wading birds. They’re the only species of stork that breeds in the U.S. and are known for making nests high in the trees of mixed hardwood swamps, mangroves, sloughs and cypress strands.

National Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Collier County is the wood stork’s historically most significant rookery in North America, but in recent years, agricultural expansions and alterations to natural hydrological cycles have made it harder for the birds to survive here, forcing the birds to expand their range into coastal marshes of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Those gains outside of Florida prompted U.S. Department of the Interior officials in 2014 to announce that the wood stork’s protection status being downgraded from “endangered” to “threatened.” Then in February of this year, U.S. wildlife officials proposed removing the wood stork from the endangered species list altogether.

Given the birds’ role as an indicator species for the health of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, we’re taking a closer look at wood storks in a conversation with Director of Conservation and the National Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Shawn Clem, Ph.D.

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