I’m always glad to see one of these endangered wading birds gliding overhead.
These graceful birds are an indicator of the health of our natural environment here in South Florida. I was hiking along when I looked up just in time to catch the striking white and black plumage of this Wood Stork gliding above like a plane.
Wood storks were listed on the Federal Endangered List in 1984. Their low population size is due to several factors over the last half century, mainly habitat loss and pollution. The most basic threat today is the continued destruction of wetland habitat that supplies the Wood Stork with food. According to www.wood-storks.com, it is estimated that a Wood Stork family needs over four hundred pounds of food during a breeding season. At the same time, the portion of wetlands in South Florida has decreased enormously in the last decade.
Locally, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is an important preserved habitat for the Wood Stork. And one of their major East Coast Florida rookeries is on Solid Waste Authority land in West Palm Beach. University of Florida researchers have put satellite tags on Solid Waste Authority chicks to learn more about their behaviors. Five hundred Wood Stork nests have been recorded here.
I just read some sad news about another indicator of the area’s wilderness vitality, the Everglades Snail Kite, and how pumping water at Lake Okeechobee is further threatening Snail Kite nests. It’s important that our state’s leaders are aware of how our actions impact these threatened species–before our endangered animals become a harbinger more than an indicator of a thriving ecosystem. We need to protect our “indicator species.”