Wood Stork Behaviors
| Feeding times | Breeding
behaviors | Habitat range | How
they fly | Nests
The wood stork has many interesting behaviors, from where it nests
to how it flies. The following list includes a number of topics
you might enjoy.
The feeding behavior of wood storks differs from most other wading
birds; wood storks rely on touch to catch their prey.
To feed, a wood stork walks slowly through shallow water with its
bill held open under the surface. When a fish, crayfish or tadpole
touches the bill, a reflex causes the bill to snap shut very quickly.
The force of this reflex and the bill's sharp edges prevent prey
This non-visual feeding method is an advantage in shallow, muddy,
To catch enough food to feed their young, prey must be abundant,
so wood storks time their breeding cycle on seasonally drying wetlands
for a concentrated food supply. Other times of the year, when less
food is required, they search statewide for shallow feeding ponds.
During summer, rains saturate thousand of acres of Florida and
fish are able to reproduce and grow rapidly.
By October, rains taper off and the waters recede. Fish begin to
concentrate in ponds and sloughs. The water area fragments into
hundreds of individual ponds that slowly shrink as the dry season
Foraging storks follow the dry-down from upland ponds to wet prairies
and coastal marshes.
A pair of wood storks needs about 440 pounds of fish during a breeding
season to feed themselves and their young. Therefore, breeding is
carefully synchronized with wetland cycles so food is most plentiful
when the young are being raised.
Young wood storks must be fledged before the summer rains begin
and the fish disperse. Droughts in the wet season, heavy rains during
the dry season, or inappropriate changes of water levels in association
with water management programs can all cause widespread nesting
Wood storks nest from coastal South Carolina south through Central
and South America to northern Argentina. In the U.S., the largest
nesting colonies are in the Big Cypress region of Florida, particularly
the National Audubon Society's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Central
and northern Florida and southern Georgia also support nesting colonies.
How they fly
Wood storks are excellent fliers. By using vertical air currents,
they soar thousands of feet into the air and then glide for miles
with head and legs outstretched. Storks descending from high altitudes
can perform amazing dives, rolls and turns.
Wood storks nest in the treetops of cypress or mangrove swamps
and, more recently, man-made impoundments. To protect themselves
against such predators as raccoons, the birds usually build their
nests on islands or in tall trees over water.
Nesting begins as early as November in South Florida and as late
as spring in North Florida and Georgia.