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.
Southwest Florida Water Management District