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The wood stork is a large, long-legged wading bird that is white with a gray-black
featherless head. It is listed as an endangered species by government agencies. This
is because disruptions and loss of wetland areas important to its feeding and breeding
have reduced the number of stork in Florida. Because of its distinctive black,
featherless head, the wood stork is sometimes called "ironhead." The wood stork's tail
and the tips of its wings also are black. These birds use their large bills to search
shallow waters and wetlands for fish. They do this by holding their bills open and
sweeping them from side to side as they walk through the water. The moment the bird
feels the fish against its beak, it grabs and swallows it. In fact, the closing of a wood
stork's beak is considered one of the fastest movements in the animal kingdom!
Nesting is timed with the cycle of the wetlands. During the drier months, larger wetland
areas dry up and become smaller wet areas. The fish that once swam throughout the
larger wetland areas become concentrated and trapped in these smaller areas. The
wood storks take advantage of this "concentration" to feast on the trapped fish and
carry back food to their young at the nest. A pair of wood storks need about 440 lbs.
of fish in one breeding season to feed themselves and their young! In times of drought,
wood storks often fail to breed or raise young.