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Florida Boardwalk Animal Fact Sheet
WOOD STORK
mycateria Americana

Range:
Coastal South Carolina, Georgia, Florida; Mexico through Central and South America.
In the 1930s, the U.S. population of Wood storks numbered about 60,000. In 1960, about 11,000 pairs nested in Florida, and, in 1985, only 4,000 to 5,000 pairs nested in Florida. The population is declining at about 4% per year because of inadequate reproduction, which is caused by inadequate food. Food resources influence when nesting begins, the percentage of adults that attempt to nest, the number of fledglings that survive and the mortality rate of young in the first year. The decline of food is caused by the disruption and drainage of wetlands as a result of human population expansion. The largest nesting colonies are found in the Big Cypress region of Lee, Henry and Collier counties. Smaller numbers nest in Central and Northern Florida.

The method used by wood storks to catch food differs from most other wading birds and is called "grope feeding" or "tacto-location" because vision is not used to locate or catch prey. The bill is held open, submerged up to the breathing passages, and is swept from side to side as the bird walks through the water. When a fish is touched, the bill snaps shut rapidly (about 25 milliseconds on average). A pair of wood storks needs about 440 lbs. of fish in one breeding season to feed themselves and to fledge their young.

Habitat: Tropical and subtropical wetlands in regions characterized by seasonal fluctuations in rainfall and water levels.
Diet: Fish, salamanders, tadpoles, frogs, insects and occasionally baby alligators and small snakes.
Status: Endangered in the United States. This is due to the destruction of wetland habitats.
Approximate Dimensions of Adult: Height: 3.3 feet
Weight: 4-7 lbs. (males slightly larger than females)
Wingspan: 5 feet
Lifespan: 10 years in wild, 20 years in captivity
Reproduction & Offspring:

Clutch size: 2-5 (usually 3). Incubation: 130-150 days. Nesting occurs in early spring when water levels are low and fish are concentrated in shallow pools. The synchronization of nesting with the cycle of the wetlands ensures maximum food supplies for the young and increases nesting success.


 

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