Wildlife officials report record number of wood stork nests

State wildlife officials said a record number of wood stork nests were recorded in South...
State wildlife officials said a record number of wood stork nests were recorded in South Carolina for 2022 marking the third time the state has set a new mark in the past four years with nearly 4,000 nests.(S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources)
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 8:30 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - State wildlife officials said a record number of wood stork nests were recorded in South Carolina for 2022 marking the third time the state has set a new mark in the past four years with nearly 4,000 nests.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said 3,928 nests were counted, around 400 nests over last year’s record. The nests are nearly double the number of nests from a decade ago.

Wildlife officials said increasing population trends moved the birds from the federally endangered list to federally threatened in 2014 with most of the growth occurring in South Carolina.

Though the highest number of nests are still in Florida, the Lowcountry, particularly the ACE Basin, had become one of the highest density sites of wood stork colonies over the past decade, according to wildlife officials.

“We have this diversity of wetlands where storks can feed,” SCDNR Wading Bird Biologist Christy Hand said. “And it means that if one type of wetland is not optimal for storks, they have several different options.”

Biologists said the increase in numbers could be, in part, due to storks moving from the Everglades when the area is less suitable for nesting. They said the increase was also because of successful wetlands management.

Officials said wood storks are larger than other wading birds and require a lot of food where they nest. Lowering water levels in waterfowl areas in the summer and fall to provide feeding habitat for wintering ducks can also provide areas for wood storks to move in and eat shallow pools of small fish, officials said.

SCDNR said the long-term threats to the birds include invasive plants that allow predators to raid nests, climate change and sea level rise.