Wood Stork

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Common Name: Wood Stork
Scientific Name: Mycteria americana

Size: 33 ½ - 45 ½ inches (85-115cm)

Habitat: North & South America. Breeding areas in much of South America, Central America and the Caribbean. In the United States, the wood stork favors cypress trees in marshes, swamps, or (less often) among mangroves and nearby habitat.

Status: Near Threatened. Global Population: 38,000 - 130,000. In the United States there is a small and endangered breeding population in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, along with a recently discovered rookery in southeastern North Carolina. On the other hand, in Santa Catarina state (Brazil) its decline seems to have been reversed: after an absence between the late 1960s and the mid-1990s, the species is now again regularly encountered there, in particular in the Tubarão River region. It is likely that the Paraná River region's wetlands served as a stronghold of the species, from where it is now re-colonizing some of its former haunts. Globally, it is considered a Species of Least Concern by the IUCN due to its large range.

Diet: Fish, frogs and large insects, and sometimes lizards and rodents. They catch fish by holding their bill open in the water until a fish is detected.

Nesting: Immature similar to adult, but neck and most of head feathered whitish. The large stick nest is built in a lowland wetlands tree. Up to twenty-five nests have been seen in one tree. Storks breed once a year, and 3-5 eggs are laid in the typical clutch. The eggs are incubated 27–32 days by both sexes. Their reproductive cycle is triggered when waterholes dry up sufficiently to concentrate fish in sufficient numbers for efficient feeding of the chicks. Competition for food is fierce, and if food is scarce, only the older chicks will survive. Week-old chicks are fed about 15 times per day, and they grow rapidly. By 14 days, each will weigh 10 times their hatching weight. At 28 days, each is 25 times heavier. During the breeding season, Wood Storks need over 400 pounds (180 kg) of fish to feed themselves and their offspring. When it is very warm, parents also collect water and bring it to the nest to drool on and into the mouths of the chicks. By 4 weeks of age, both parents leave the nest to search for food, and this continues until the chicks “fledge” or leave the nest. Young may continue to return to the colony for another 10 to 15 days to roost or to try and get food from their parents. A colony is considered successful if its parents average at least 1.5 fledged young per nest.

Cool Facts: The Wood Stork is the only stork breeding in the United States. Its late winter breeding season is timed to the Florida dry season when its fish prey become concentrated in shrinking pools.

Each adult will defend their nest against various predators. Crows, ravens, vultures, grackles and striped skunks will attempt to pick off eggs. Raccoons are the leading predator of nests, and can cause almost complete colony nesting failure when water dries under nests in drought years.

Found in Songbird ReMix Shorebirds Volume I

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