Photo by Christy Hand, SC DNR
The wood stork (Mycteria americana) is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It is the only stork that breeds in the United States. Wood storks in South Carolina initiate nesting from March to late May. They nest in colonies, frequently with other colonial wading birds such as egrets and herons. Often, many nests will be found in a single tree, sometimes touching. The birds build a flat, platform nest up to three feet in diameter,with sticks and branches collected by the male, preferably in trees standing in water or on small islands. Such locations, particularly if alligators are present, make predation of the nest by mammals such as raccoons more difficult.
They typically have one brood per year but may produce a second brood in the case of early season nest failure. Week-old chicks maybe fed as many as 15 times per day. They grow rapidly. Young wood storks begin to take short flights at about 8 weeks of age, returning to the nest to eat and sleep until about 11 weeks old.
The daily food intake of an adult wood stork is approximately one pound of food. During the breeding season, a pair of wood storks needs over 400 pounds of food to feed themselves and their offspring. Wood storks may abandon both eggs and young if sufficient food is not available. The diet of wood storks consists mainly of fish, and sometimes frogs, aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small snakes, alligators and turtles. Tactile feeders, they typically feed by wading in shallow fresh water sometimes traveling as far as 30 miles from the nest to forage. Wood storks are generally silent except for hissing and bill clattering in nest displays.