This week’s featured Wading Bird is the Wood Stork. Last year on my birthday, we saw a juvenile Wood Stork in Cape May, NJ. Since the Wood Stork range is the southeastern United States, our Wood Stork was considered a rarity and delighted many excited birders for a few weeks in NJ.
- Large bird, standing at about 3 feet tall
- Mainly white with black flight feathers
- Bald, scaly looking heads
- Thick curved black bill with long neck
- Similar plumage colors to adult
- Pale bill that darkens with age
- Grayish feathers on neck
South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the Caribbean, coasts of Mexico
Cypress swamps, lagoons, marshes, ponds. Mainly freshwater habitats
- Fish, reptiles, invertebrates, amphibians, aquatic insects, nestlings
- Forages in shallow water with bill partially open; snaps bill close in contact with prey
- Sometimes uses its feet to stir up prey or flaps to startle prey
- Courtship: A male starts off aggressive towards a female, but once he accepts her into the territory will bring her sticks and preen her. Pairs stay together for one breeding season.
- Nesting: Colonial nesters in trees above standing water. Nesting locations include mangroves, stands of cypress trees, or flooded impoundments. The pair will construct a nest of sticks that is lined with greenery and guano. The nest will end up being 3- 5 feet wide and take 2-3 days to construct.
- Young: Both parents will incubate 3-5 eggs for 28-32 days. The young are fed by both parents and will be guarded in the nest by a parent for about 5 weeks. First flights occur around 8 weeks, but the young will usually stick around the nest to be fed and to sleep until about 11 weeks.
Usually silent except during nest. Young makes clattering bill noises while adults make croaking sounds.
Wood Storks are considered uncommon. Their populations have declined over the years. Threats include changes in water levels, nest predation from terrestrial animals, and habitat degradation.
- The Wood Stork is the only native stork species in North America.
- When temperatures rise in the late afternoon, Wood Storks will soar high in the thermals just like raptors.
- Wood Storks used to be known as the “wood ibis”, even though they are not ibises.
You can check out our previous Wading Bird post about Black-crowned Night-Herons here.