Wood Stork: Large, odd wading bird, mostly white except for black flight feathers and tail. Upper neck and head are featherless and dark gray. The bill is thick, long, and curved downward. Legs and feet are gray black. Alternates between strong wing beats and gliding. Soars on thermals and updrafts.
Range and Habitat
Wood Stork: Breeds in Florida and Georgia; very rarely it may breed elsewhere along the coast from South Carolina to Texas. Wanders as far as California and Massachusetts, though very rarely. Resident along coastal Mexico and in the West Indies. Breeding habitat is chiefly in cypress swamps; also in mangroves.
Five families are included in the CICONIIFORMES (pronounced sih-KON-ee-ih-FOR-meez), an order that includes long-legged birds such as ibises and spoonbills, the herons and egrets, and the storks.
The Ciconiidae (pronounced sik-uh-NYE-uh-dee), or stork family, is composed of nineteen species in six genera.
In North America, there are just two species of storks in two separate genera. These two species are the Wood Stork and the Jabiru.
Stork species such as the Wood Stork are known for their massive bills and large size; indeed they are among the largest of flying birds.
Storks are large birds with long legs, short tails and long, thick necks that are featherless in most species. Storks have long, large, slightly downcurved bills, and long, broad wings ideal for soaring and flying long distances.
Both North American stork species are mostly white in coloration with blackish necks and heads. In the case of the rare Jabiru, its plumage is entirely white while the Wood Stork has black in the wings and tail. The Jabiru also shows a bit of red on the neck and the Wood Stork dull yellow on the bill.
Storks in North America are only found in wetlands and coastal marshes of the southeastern United States, the Wood Stork being the only regularly occurring species and only breeding Florida. The Jabiru is a very rare vagrant from Mexico that has wandered to southern Texas.
Although storks don’t migrate to escape the winter, they disperse for long distances in search of feeding opportunities.
Members of the Ciconiidae nest in colonies and are typically encountered in flocks soaring together at great heights, or foraging in wet fields and marshes. Storks forage by walking and wading though wetlands that hold frogs, fish, and other creatures that they snap out of the vegetation with their large bills.
Neither North American stork species is endangered although populations of the Jabiru in Mexico and Central America are locally threatened. In Asia, where several stork species are in trouble, the plight of waterbirds is unfortunately a different story.
The White Stork of Europe has become adapted to living with people in Poland and some other countries and even nests on platforms on top of houses. This behavior is what gave rise to the children’s story of babies coming from storks. In North America, Wood Storks are far from becoming adapted to breed on rooftops. Instead, they build their nests above water to keep raccoons and other predators from eating their eggs and young.