Wood Stork (Mycteria Americana)
In a 2009 a Science Daily article report by NOAA and US Fish and Wildlife stated that during the years from 1998-2004, coastal wetlands disappeared at the rate of 59,000 acres per year in the coastal watershed of the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
The importance of the recently completed impoundment project is underscored by the following recent comment:
“Although some habitat loss continues, current population data clearly indicates that the wood stork is benefiting from the work of private landowners and several strong partnership efforts.” said Cindy Dohner, the FWS Southeast Regional Director. “The wood stork is expanding its breeding range using a wide variety of wetlands to forage, roost, and breed, including man-made and restored wetlands.”
The US Fish and Wildlife has proposed downlisting the Wood Stork from endangered to threatened. This is due, in part, to the concerted efforts of these strong partnerships. A 2011 survey demonstrated 2,031 nesting pairs in South Carolina.
The Wood Stork is a large, long legged wading bird about 50 inches tall with a wing span of 60-65 inches. The plumage is white with the exception of black primaries, secondaries and a short black tail. They can honk, hiss, croak, squeal, whistle and clatter their beaks.
They have an unusual but very effective method for catching fish. With their bills open under water, they wait for small fish to pass by then snap their bill shut. This can be done in as little as 25 milliseconds. Though they eat small fish, they eat a lot of them. An average nesting pair with two fledglings may eat over 400 pounds in a breeding season.
They are social feeding in flocks. Sometimes several pairs will nest in a single tree. Females lay 2-5 eggs which both sexes incubate for one month. The young fledge about two months after hatching.
They breed in South Eastern United States and are the only stork to breed in the US. They also breed in Central and South America from Mexico to Argentina. The Wood Stork population of South America is in better shape than in the US.
Take time to enjoy this marvelous bird seen often in the impoundment and on the inlet side of the rice trunk.