FPL | Wood Stork Quick Reference

Wood Stork Quick Reference

Worldwide, there are 17 species of storks, but the wood stork is the only species found regularly in the U.S. They nest from South Carolina south through Florida, Central and South America to northern Argentina.

Characteristics of the wood stork vary from their youth to adulthood:

  • Young storks have yellowish bills and feathered necks and heads, at least until their third summer.
  • Adult wood storks are over 3 feet tall with a wingspan of 5 feet.

Adults have dark, naked heads, bills and necks, and white plumage trimmed in black. Males and females are very similar physically.

Wood storks nest in treetop colonies on islands and in swamps.

A wood stork catches fish and small aquatic animals by wading through shallow water "fishing" with its bill. When a fish touches it, the bill snaps shut in a rapid reflex.

Because of its feeding behavior, wood storks rely on the dense population of prey found in seasonally drying wetland ponds and sloughs during reproductive periods. Other times of the year they search in shallow waters throughout the state.

A pair of wood storks needs about 440 pounds of fish during a breeding season to feed themselves and their young.

From an estimated 60,000 wood storks in 1930, the population has been reduced to 4,000 to 5,000 nesting pairs. The declines in recent decades are the result of habitat disruption and loss of wetlands.