The Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) is a large, bald-headed wading bird that stands more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) tall, has a 5 foot (1.5 meter) wing spread, and weighs 4 to 6 pounds (1.8 to 2.7 kg). It is the only stork breeding in the United States and was placed on the Federal Endangered Species list in 1984. The species was downlisted from endangered to threatened in June 2014, reflecting a successful conservation and recovery effort spanning three decades.
The Wood Stork serves as an indicator species for restoration of the Everglades ecosystem. Indicator species serve as excellent messengers of the past, present, and future because their specific habitat requirements are so closely associated with one particular environment. The quality and quantity of the required environment directly determines the well-being and the number of that species. Because it is much easier to count and record the biology of one or more indicator species than it is to measure the more complex workings of an ecosystem, close monitoring of carefully selected species provides important information about the health of the entire system.