Our only native stork in North America, a very large, heavy-billed bird that wades in the shallows of southern swamps. Flies with slow wingbeats, and flocks often soar very high on warm days. Young Wood Storks have noisy begging calls, but adults are almost silent except for hissing and bill clappering. Florida populations have declined as water management there has become a more difficult problem.
Population of southeastern United States was reportedly over 150,000 at one time, but by early 1990s probably not much over 10,000. Destruction of habitat and disruption of water flow through southern Florida were major causes of decline. Breeding population of far southern Florida has dropped sharply since 1970s, some of these birds apparently shifting north; has expanded breeding range north to South Carolina recently.
Cypress swamps (nesting colonies); marshes, ponds, lagoons. Forages mainly in fresh water, including shallow marshes, flooded farm fields, ponds, ditches. Favors falling water levels (when fish and other prey likely to be more concentrated in remaining pools). Nests mainly in stands of tall cypress, also sometimes in mangroves, dead trees in flooded impoundments.