WoodStork.jpg

Wood Stork: Mycteria americana

Taxonomic Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Ciconiidae
Genus/Species: Mycteria americana
Common Name: Wood stork

Listing Status

Federal Status: Endangered  
FL Status: Federally-designated Endangered
FNAI Ranks: G4/S2 (Globally: Apparently Secure; State: Imperiled)
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)

Physical Description

The wood stork is a large, long legged wading bird that reaches a length of 35-45 inches (89-114 centimeters) with a wingspan of 60-65 inches (152-165 centimeters).  The primary and tail feathers are black (J. Rodgers pers comm. 2011).  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 (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001).  After copulation, males begin gathering twigs for constructing nests (Coulter et al. 1999).  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 (Rodgers 1990).  Females lay a single clutch of two to five eggs per season (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1999).  The average incubation period is 30 days, with young wood storks able to fly 10-12 weeks after hatching (J. Rodgers pers comm. 2011).

Habitat and Distribution

WoodStork Distribution MapWood storks nest in mixed hardwood swamps, sloughs, mangroves, and cypress domes/strands in Florida (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001).  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 (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001, J. Rodgers pers. comm. 2011). 

Threats:

The South Florida population has collapsed due to agricultural expansions and altered hydrocycles (Coulter et al. 1999, J. Rodgers pers comm. 2011).  Wood storks need normal flooding to increase prey population with a natural drawdown to concentrate prey in one area (J. Rodgers pers comm. 2011).  Successful breeding depends on normal hydrocycles.  The drainage of cypress stands prevents the wood stork from nesting, and promotes predation from raccoons (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1996). 

Conservation and Management

The wood stork is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  It is also protected as an Endangered species by the Federal Endangered Species Act and as a Federally-designated Endangered species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule External Website.

Federal Recovery Plan External Website
Federal Action Plan External Website

Other Informative Links

Birds of North America External Website
Florida Natural Areas Inventory External Website
FWC Species Profile
FWC Additional Information
International Union for Conservation of Nature External Website
National Geographic External Website
National Park Service External Website
Southwest Florida Water Management District External Website
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology External Website

 

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References

Coulter, M. C., J. A. Rodgers, J. C. Ogden and F. C. Depkin. 1999. Wood Stork (Mycteria  americana), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of       Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:           http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/409 External Website.

Florida Natural Areas Inventory. 2001.  Field guide to the rare animals of Florida.    http://www.fnai.org/FieldGuide/pdf/Mycteria_americana.PDF External Website.

Rodgers, J.A., Jr. 1990. Breeding chronology and clutch information for the wood stork
from museum collections. Journal of Field Ornithology 61(1):47-53.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  1996. Revised recovery plan for the U.S. breeding population of the wood stork.  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Atlanta, Georgia. 41p.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Wood stork. Retrieved August 23, 2011, from Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida: http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/MSRPPDFs/Woodstork.pdf External Website.


Image Credit Photo courtesy of Ryan Hagerty, USFWS



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