The Wood Stork -
(roughly translated as Snout American), is relatively uncommon and limited to the South East in the US, (with a small population in California), and was first described by Linnaeus in 1758. It is also found in coastal regions in Mexico, the West Indies and down through Central and South America. Usually found in muddy pools where receding waters concentrate fish numbers, mangrove swamps and other fresh and brackish stretches of water where water depth is 4-12 inches. Wood Storks are a member of the family Ciconiidae which includes 19 species. The only other one found in North America is the Jabiru. The order Ciconiiformes includes other long-legged wading birds including Ibis, Spoonbills, Herons and Egrets.
Food is typically small fish and aquatic invertebrates but will eat frogs and other bird nestlings. Typically, they wade though water with their bills open and submerged snapping when they feel contact and swallowing their prey whole. They often flick their feet or wings to startle their prey.
Wood Storks typically live in small colonies and roost in trees along the waters edge. They forage together typically forming a long line. When flying, Wood Storks often ride thermals like raptors and are good flyers.
They nest in colonies and are monogamous for the season. These colonies are often mixed species with egrets and herons. Nests are built above water to avoid predation from notably raccoons. They lay 2-5 eggs and have a long incubation period of around a month. Both sexes incubate the eggs. The chicks fledge about 65 days after hatching but have a high mortality rate with only 30% surviving the first 2 weeks after hatching. Sexual maturity is reached after 4 years but they can be exceedingly long lived the oldest recorded being 27 years.
The US breeding population in the Southeast are non-migratory but will travel long distances, (up to 50 miles), in search of food. The Wood Storks found in Texas are birds from Latin America that are roaming north for food, making them an irruptive species.
Although uncommon in the US, the Wood Stork population is stable at around 450 thousand birds and is therefore a species of least concern.
Wood Storks are almost unmistakable. Standing at 3 feet high they are predominantly white with a black trailing edge on wing, black wing tips and a black tail. The head is bare and scaly and is gray in color. The bill is thick and heavy. Its long legs are typically dark, but the feet are often pink in color. Flight is strong but often glides on thermals.
Note Wood Storks are typically silent except for some bill clapping and the odd low croak.
The collective noun for a group of Storks is a clatter, a filth, a muster, a phalanx or a swoop.
Wood Storks will regurgitate water over their chicks to keep them cool when hot.
The Wood Storks nickname is the Preacherbird as they appear to stand around considering life after eating. Also has been known as Ironhead and Flinthead.
A good flyer, Wood Storks have been seen at altitudes of up to 10 thousand feet.