Wood Storks – Preparing the Nursery
Recently, I had the privilege of observing endangered Wood Stork pairs prepare their nests for new family additions.While visiting St. Augustine, Florida with my camera club, I spent early mornings and late afternoons for three days at the St. Augustine Farm Zoological Park’s Wading Bird Rookery. There, protected from tree-climbing predators by scores of alligators swimming and crawling beneath the rookery trees, wading birds roost and nest. One nesting species was the Wood Stork.
Nest building is a shared responsibility. While the female stands guard over the nest under construction, the male flies off to find suitable nursery building material.
Working beak and body up and down, the male Wood Stork breaks off a small branch. Then, he carries it in his beak as he flies back to the nesting site.
Graceful in flight, an adult Wood Stork has a wing span of 4.9-5.8 feet. Upon arrival at the nursery, the stork works to weave the stick or twig into the nest. Often the monogamous pair work at this task together.
I found watching these large birds to be a delightful experience. They showed obvious affection for each other, working together and resting in close contact. When mating they gaze upon each other, hold each others bills, and rapidly clatter them together in communication.
Successful breeding among Wood Storks depends on several factors: low water levels that support fish concentration, air temperatures above freezing, and the absence of human disturbance. In the Florida Everglades, a new threat looms for breeding pairs–the exotic Burmese Python. Although the Wood Stork species has made population gains in recent years, it is vital to protect their habitat from further degradation to prevent the disappearance of America’s only stork from our southeastern wetlands.
For a previous post on Wood Storks, see The Stork Delivers from May 16, 2009.