The wood stork is a large American wading bird. It is part of the stork family Ciconiidae. Formerly, it was called the wood ibis, even though it is not an ibis. You will find the wood stork in subtropical and tropical habitats in both the Americas and the Caribbean.
In 1758, Carl Linnaeus a Swedish botanist described that the wood stork likely evolved in tropical regions. The head and neck are bards of feathers and dark grey in color. Their plumage is mostly white, with the exception of the tail and some wing feathers. Those feathers are black with a greenish-purple sheen. Juvenile wood storks will have a feathered head and a yellow bill compared to the adult bill which is black.
A wood stork’s habitat can vary, but it must have a tropical or subtropical climate with fluctuating water levels. Nests are found in mangroves usually surrounded by water or over water. Nesting colonially, a nest will be made from sticks and greenery. Breeding season is between November and August when the water levels drop. A single clutch (a group of eggs) is between two and five eggs. They are incubated for around 30 days and the chicks hatch altricial. Chicks will fledge between 60 and 65 days after hatching. Roughly 31% of the fledging chick will die during their first two weeks, despite being watched by an adult during that time.
Unlike the adults whose diets change throughout the year, chicks are fed fish of an increasing size. During the dry season, the adults will eat insects. But, in the wet season, their diets consist of frogs and crabs. Since they forage by touch, shallow water is needed to effectively catch food and is why they breed when water levels start to fall.
When a wood stork flies, it utilizes two different techniques. Late in the afternoon or on a cloudy day, the wood stork alternates between flapping its wings and gliding for short periods of time. During warm clear weather, the bird glides after it gains an altitude of at least 2,000 feet, by continuously flapping its wings. A stork can glide for distances ranging from 9.9 to 14.9 miles. Due to the warm thermals are strong enough to support the stork, it does not have to flap its wings. To conserve energy, storks usually use this method to fly to a more distant area.
Flying to foraging areas, a wood stork averages a speed of about 15.2 mph. During flapping flight, they average about 21.4 mph and 12 mph by gliding.
Raccoons are predators to wood storks and their chicks. Especially during dry periods when the water beneath nesting trees dries up. Other predators like hawks and vultures prey on both eggs and chicks.
With the levee and drainage systems in the Everglades, the timing of water fluctuations have changed, and thus, shifting the timing of nesting and consequently decreasing the population.