Beyond Bounds: Wood Stork

Wood Stork (photo by Kim Steininger)
This bird may have beautiful feathers but look at its feet, look at its face that only a mother could love.

This is the wood stork, a wading bird native to the Western Hemisphere and the only stork that breeds in the U.S.

The wood stork is found year-round in South America, along the Gulf Coast in winter and in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina during the nesting season. It feeds on fish, frogs and large insects that it feels with its sensitive bill.  It also clatters its bills to communicate because, like all storks, it has no voice.

Wood storks are beyond the bounds of western Pennsylvania except for the rare lone juvenile that may show up at Presque Isle State Park in autumn.  These solo birds probably make a fatal navigational error that takes them to the shores of Lake Erie.   The loss of these youngsters is made sadder by the fact that the wood stork is endangered due to water degradation and habitat loss.  Their population has declined so dramatically that they're now considered an indicator species for the Everglades restoration.

Storks and motherhood are often associated but this stork is not the one who brings babies.  That's the job of the white stork of Europe, Central Asia and Africa who nests on chimneys and roofs.

(photo by Kim Steininger)

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