Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Wood Stork

The Wood Stork - Mycteria americana is a large American wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It was formerly called the "Wood Ibis", though it is not really an Ibis.

            Wood Stork wading in Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel, FL.

The adult is a large bird 33-45 in tall and has a 58-71 inch wingspan. Males typically weigh 5.5-7.3 lbs. Females weigh 4.4-6.2 lbs. Although large birds are up to 10 lbs.

 Striking a pose, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples FL.

 It appears all white on the ground, with blackish-gray legs and pink feet. In flight, the trailing edge of the wings is black. The head is dark brown with a bald, black face, and the thick downcurved bill is dusky yellow. Juvenile birds are a duller version of the adult, generally browner on the neck, and with a paler bill.

                Notice the bubble gum pink feet of the  Wood Stork 

These waders feed on minnows in shallow water by using their bills to perform a rare and effective fishing technique. The stork opens its bill and sticks it into the water, then waits for the touch of an unfortunate fish that wanders too close. When it feels a fish, the stork can snap its bill shut in as little as 25 milliseconds—an incredibly quick reaction time matched by few other vertebrates.The storks prefer to employ this technique in isolated pools created by tides or falling freshwater levels, where fish congregate en masse. In some areas, such as Florida, breeding begins with the dry season that produces these optimal fishing conditions.

Closeup portrait on a foggy morning, Ding Darling NWR. Sanibel FL.

Though wood storks eat small fish, they eat a lot of them. An average nesting pair, with two fledglings, may eat over 400 pounds of fish during a single breeding season.Wood storks are social animals. They feed in flocks and nest in large rookeries—sometimes several pairs to a single tree. Females lay two to five eggs, which both sexes incubate for about one month. Young fledge about two months after hatching.

Wood Stork in flight over Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel FL.
Wood storks breed in the southeastern United States and are the only stork to breed in the U.S. They also breed in Central and South America from Mexico to Argentina. Though U.S. populations are endangered—probably because of the loss of optimal feeding habitat—the South American stork populations are in better shape. This species seems to have evolved in tropical regions; its North American presence probably postdates the last ice age. 

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