Wood Stork: Mycteria americana


Tall and long-legged, the wood stork is the largest wading bird native to America. It is white with black flight feathers, distinctive because of its dark, featherless head (down to the upper neck) and thick, down-curved bill. Wood storks fly with neck and legs extended, interrupting strong wing beats with brief glides; their wingspan is 5 1/2 feet.


Wood storks nest in mixed hardwood swamps, sloughs, mangroves, and cypress domes/strands in Florida (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001).  They forage in a variety of wetlands including both freshwater and estuarine marshes, although limited to depths less than 10-12 inches.  The wood stork breeds in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.  Non-breeding wood storks have an extensive range throughout North America, to northern Argentina in South America (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001, J. Rodgers pers. comm. 2011). 


Wood storks feed on small to medium-sized fish, crayfish, amphibians, and reptiles.  Their hunting technique is unique as they will move their partially opened bill through water, snapping up prey when the prey comes in contact with the bill.

The wood stork is the only species of stork that breeds in the U.S.  Wood storks are very social in nesting habitats, as they are often seen nesting in large colonies of 100-500 nests.  Colonies in South Florida form late November to early March, while wood storks in Central and North Florida form colonies from February to March (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001).  After copulation, males begin gathering twigs for constructing nests (Coulter et al. 1999).  Wood stork nests are primarily built in trees that stand in water (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1999).  In Florida, wood storks are capable of laying eggs from October to June (Rodgers 1990).  Females lay a single clutch of two to five eggs per season (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1999).  The average incubation period is 30 days, with young wood storks able to fly 10-12 weeks after hatching (J. Rodgers pers comm. 2011).

Additional Information:

Federal Recovery Plan External Website
Florida Natural Areas Inventory External Website
FWC Species Profile
FWC Additional Information
International Union for Conservation of Nature External Website
National Geographic External Website
National Park Service External Website
Southwest Florida Water Management District External Website
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology External Website


Coulter, M.C., J.A. Rodgers, J.C. Ogden and F.C. Depkin. 1999. Wood Stork (Mycteria  americana), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.

Florida Natural Areas Inventory. 2001.  Field guide to the rare animals of Florida. External Website.

Rodgers, J.A., Jr. 1990. Breeding chronology and clutch information for the wood stork
from museum collections. Journal of Field Ornithology 61(1):47-53.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 1996. Revised recovery plan for the U.S. breeding population of the wood stork.  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Atlanta, Georgia. 41p.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Wood stork.Retrieved August 23, 2011, from Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida: External Website.

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