Monday, January 11, 2016

Florida Wood Stork

The Wood Stork is the only species of stork that breeds in the U.S. This large bird is protected as a Threatened species by the Federal Endangered Species Act.

The wood stork is a large, long legged wading bird that reaches a length of 35-45 inches  with a wingspan of 60-65 inches ).  The primary and tail feathers are black .  The head and upper neck of adult wood storks have no feathers, but have gray rough scaly skin.  Wood storks also have a black bill and black legs with pink toes.  Adult wood storks are voiceless and are capable of only making hissing sounds. 
Life History
Wood storks feed on small to medium-sized fish, crayfish, amphibians, and reptiles.  Their hunting technique is unique as they will move their partially opened bill through water, snapping up prey when the prey comes in contact with the bill.
The wood stork is the only species of stork that breeds in the U.S..  Wood storks are very social in nesting habitats, as they are often seen nesting in large colonies of 100-500 nests.  Colonies in South Florida form late November to early March, while wood storks in Central and North Florida form colonies from February to March .  After copulation, males begin gathering twigs for constructing nests .  Wood stork nests are primarily built in trees that stand in water (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1999).  In Florida, wood storks are capable of laying eggs from October to June.  Females lay a single clutch of two to five eggs per season .  The average incubation period is 30 days, with young wood storks able to fly 10-12 weeks after hatching .
Habitat and Distribution
WoodStork Distribution MapWood storks nest in mixed hardwood swamps, sloughs, mangroves, and cypress domes/strands in Florida .  They forage in a variety of wetlands including both freshwater and estuarine marshes, although limited to depths less than 10-12 inches.  The wood stork breeds in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.  Non-breeding wood storks have an extensive range throughout North America, to northern Argentina in South America . 
The South Florida population has collapsed due to agricultural expansions and altered hydrocycles  .  Wood storks need normal flooding to increase prey population with a natural drawdown to concentrate prey in one area.  Successful breeding depends on normal hydrocycles.  The drainage of cypress stands prevents the wood stork from nesting, and promotes predation from raccoons . 
Conservation and Management
The wood stork is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  It is also protected as a Threatened species by the Federal Endangered Species Act and as a Federally-designated Threatened species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule. The wood stork was reclassified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on June 30, 2014, from Endangered to Threatened. Source:

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Wood Stork