A wood stork is a large wading bird with a featherless head. These birds also have stout bills. The loss of wetlands during this century has killed many of these storks.
The way the wood stork feeds is different from the ways that other types of storks feed. The wood stork relies on its sense of touch to get its food. When it feels a fish swim and touch its bill, one of the stork's reflexes causes its bill to shut. The strong snap of the stork's bill and the sharp edges of the bill keep the fish, crayfish, or tadpole from escaping.
Although these birds are very clumsy on land, they are very graceful when they fly through the sky. Believe it or not, these birds can glide miles in the air. Wood storks can do amazing stunts when flying down from a high altitude.
There are many nicknames for the wood stork. These nicknames are "flinthead", "Spanish buzzard", "gourdhead", and "ironhead". These names come from the appearance of the bird's bald head. Another nickname for the wood stork is "preacher", which comes from the dignified style of the bird when resting.
Wood storks have a five-foot wingspan and will sometimes perform acrobatics in air. They have even been seen flying upside down!
The wood stork's genus is Mycteria which is Greek for snout.
Their nests were originally located in swamps. But today, most of the wood storks live in man-made freshwater reservoirs and mangrove islands.
Most of the wood stork colonies in southern Florida have stopped having offspring since the 1960's. The reason for this is loss of food in droughts and the drainage of the wetlands. The wood stork was listed as an endangered species on February 28, 1984. The wood stork is considered an endangered species because of this loss of reproduction. The was a survey in the 1970's that counted over 18,000 birds in 32 colonies in Florida. After a decade, there might have been 52 colonies, but there were only 10,000 wood storks. Southern Florida historically had about 20,000 nesting of wood storks, but now there are under 4,000!
The wood storks are important because when there is a loss of these birds, scientists know that there is a greater amount of pollution than there was previously in the wetlands. To help these birds, if you see one, please do not disturb them or chase them.
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