Wood Stork

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday, our focus is on the Wood Stork (Mycteria americana).

Wood Storks are a regular sight here on Edisto. Those wrought iron legs, shin deep in tide, supporting a cottony coat broken by black hemmed wings of snow below a stone studded neck that mantles a bust hewn from flint and granite. A bird of statuesque presence and prehistoric appearance. Wood Storks stand out and above the blackened backwaters and pluff muddened bluffs, hunting fin-fish and shellfish at both. In flight, their broad wings smother the sky, spearheaded by a bony bill and trailed by stick-like legs. They’re by no means our most common wading bird but they are a dependable diner in our watery wilds throughout the year.

Despite their solid presence on Edisto today, Wood Storks were not always so prolific on our island. With the turn of the 20th century, breeding populations were restricted to Florida. These populations dwindled throughout the 1900s due to habitat destruction. The draining of wetlands in Florida pushed many birds to relocate into Georgia and SC by the late 1970s. In 1984 the Wood Stork was federally listed as an endangered species. This afforded the birds and their critical habitats special legal protection and provided funding for rigorous federal and state conservation efforts. Thanks to these efforts, the Wood Stork has made a strong recovery and its status was changed from endangered to threatened in 2014. Wood Storks have specialized nesting requirements and every spring they return to rookeries, like the nearby Donnelley Wildlife Management Area or Dungannon Plantation Heritage Preserve, to nest. However, they feed and roost on Edisto for most of the year and immature birds may be present throughout the spring. Tidal marshes, swamps, and impoundments are their preferred feeding grounds on the island. These are ecosystems of high conservation concern that the EIOLT strives to protect. These important ecosystems, and the animals that need them, deserve preservation for future generations to experience.

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