Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
WHAT DOES A WOODSTORK LOOK LIKE? Wood Storks are large water birds that are about 3 feet tall. Their wings open up 5 ½ feet wide. They are mostly white, but have a black tail and many black feathers under their wings. Storks are related to ibises, herons, and flamingoes. They have no feathers on their head and neck, so their black skin is easy to see from far away. This makes wood storks the only tall water birds with black, bald heads. Since they have no muscles attached to their voice box, they are very quiet birds. Every now and then they will croak like a bullfrog, or hiss like a snake. Wood storks have long, skinny legs and a long, curved beak. Storks can glide for a long time on warm wind currents. Sometimes they dive and flip as they soar down from high in the sky. When they do flap their wings, they look a bit clumsy. Sometimes they fly in flocks with egrets and ibises. Wood storks can cool off by urinating (peeing) on their legs. When the sun evaporates the urine, it cools them off, like sweat. If the wood storks are healthy, the wetlands where they live are probably healthy.
HOW DO THEY HUNT? Wood storks live in warm wet places. They wade or walk along slowly in shallow water looking for food. They usually eat small fish, tadpoles, and crayfish. A wood stork hunts for these animals by wading in the water with its bill (beak) open, just under the waters surface. Its long legs keep its feathers high and dry while it hunts. When fish pass by, the bird snaps its bill shut, catching some dinner!
WHAT IS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES? The wood stork is an endangered species. This means that there are not many left, and we need to make sure they have places to live that are not polluted. Sixty years ago, there were 60,000 wood storks. Today, there are only 9,000 left. If the wood storks are dying, what does that tell us about our wetlands? Are the ponds and marshes dying too? You can help wetlands by picking up trash near the water!
Terres, John K. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New Your: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1987.
Provided by the Pelotes Island Nature Preserve
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