Storks are creatures of folklore. As North America’s only native stork, when Europeans arrived, wood storks assumed the role of baby delivery from White Storks.
This celebrity status did not protect them. Populations plunged from 20,000 nesting pairs in the 1930s to less than 5,000 pairs by the 1970s. Almost all nesting in the Everglades and Big Cypress ecosystems. 29 known breeding colonies remained. While being hammered by 1960s man-made water flow changes.
February 1984, Wood Storks were listed as Endangered. Physical protection & programs to restore habitat reversed the downward trend. June 2014 they were upgraded to Threatened.
In 2023, the 50th anniversary of the ESA, they are to be completely delisted. One criterion to delist was reaching a five-year average of 10,000 nesting pairs, half the historical population. The storks reached this goal in total because they met it in breeding regions outside of their historic turf to which they have expanded. Georgia & South Carolina coastal protection & wetland management programs, especially in GA, helped turned the tide for Wood Storks.
They continue to struggle in South FL, because the Everglades continue to struggle. As proof, the restoration target for Everglades’breeding pairs is only 1,500-2,500 & meeting it is going to be a stretch.