The Wood Stork is a large wading bird (up to 45 inches tall) with white feathers, blackish-gray legs and red feet. It is easy to spot not only by its size but its dark brown bald head, black face, and a thick yellow down curved bill. This can be an interesting bird to video.
The wood stork is the only stork that breeds in North America. Its diet consists of fish, frogs, large insects and sometimes lizards and rodents. The wood stork feeds by walking slowly in shallow water up to its belly with its mouth held open until food is detected.
In ENP, look for wood storks in open wetlands and dwarf cypress beside the Main Park Road, at Royal Palm and in Shark Valley. In addition, in recent years 400 pairs of nesting wood storks have been counted at Paurotis Pond. This is a sizable increase but nowhere near the estimates of earlier wood stork populations for the area.
The wood stork population was devastated when the Everglades’ natural water flow was altered by man-made canals and barriers. For this and other reasons, the wood stork was on the endangered species list for 3 decades.
In 2014, the wood stork was downgraded from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), reflecting the current policy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to downgrade endangered animals such as the manatee. USFWS calls the move an “upgrade” because it says there are more of them at the moment. When it comes to protection for wood storks, it is a downgrade. There never is absolute certainty the current population will continue to increase.
The good news: in recent years, Paurotis Pond has been the nesting site for about 400 pairs of nesting wood storks.