Wood storks are large, long-legged wading birds, easily distinguished by their
dark featherless heads, and heavy bill with a downward curve at the tip. Formerly called the "Wood Ibis," this is a true stork. Wood Storks are about 40-44 inches in length with a wingspan of five feet. Their plumage is trimmed with black...about 5O inches tall, with a wingspan of 60 to 65 inches. The plumage is white, except for black primaries and secondaries, and a short black tail. The head and neck are mostly unfeathered, and dark gray in color. Bill long, stout, and slightly curved; black in adults and dull yellow in immatures. Immature birds are somewhat dingy gray and have a yellowish bill.
The wood storks roost and nest in treetop colonies numbering up to 10,000 pairs. Wood stork pairs often mate for life. Pairs often return to the same nesting colony site year-after-year. The nest is a platform made of sticks and places in a tree. There may be a many as 25 nests in a single tree! Both the male and the female build the nest. The female lays 2 or 3 white eggs and both parents take turns incubating them. Incubation takes 28-32 days. Both parents feed and care for the chicks. The chicks fledge in about two months.
Wood Storks feed on fish in shallow ponds. These birds perch motionless on a bare branch or slowly stalk through marshes in search of food. They obtain food--mainly fish and snakes--by probing the water with their bills, locating prey by sense of touch. It eats small fish, frogs, mollusks, snails, insects, and aquatic invertebrates. When it feels a fish, the stork can snap its bill shut in as little as 25 milliseconds...an incredibly quick reaction time matched by few other vertebrates.
The are expert at soaring, they are sometimes seen circling high in the air on rising air currents. The wood storks are excellent fliers. It soars thousands of feet in the air with its legs and neck outstretched and rides on air currents. The wood stork sometimes performs rolls and dives in flight. Unlike herons, storks fly with neck extended.
The wood stork is the only stork species found in North America. Average lifespan in the wild is 11 to 18 years. Wood storks are social animals. They feed in flocks and nest in large rookeries—sometimes several pairs to a single tree. Females lay two to five eggs, which both sexes incubate for about one month. Young fledge about two months after hatching.
My personal notes...
These birds are not the most beautiful, but I like their characteristics. There is are group of three that stay at a nearby lake, a male, a female, and their offspring. I call them "The Fam". They seem like such gentle birds, and stay together most of the time that they feed. They seem to enjoy the insects and small fish at the edge of the lake. Their legs look so awkward to me...kind of like the little kid in the class who grew taller than the rest.