I could understand why you would think that they are dinosaurs and you might be correct!! But I am not talking about them. I am speaking of the Mycteria americana or the wood stork. Scientists believe that birds are descendants of the dinosaurs. When you look out your kitchen window at a cute little blue jay or cardinal, you might find that hard to believe. But looking at the wood stork??? Not so hard!!
This species seems to have evolved in tropical regions; its North American presence probably postdates the last ice age. A fossil fragment from the Touro Passo Formation found at Arroio Touro Passo (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil) might be of the living species; it is at most from the Late Pleistocene age, a few 10,000s of years ago.
The sight of the rough, bald and blackish-gray head of a wood stork makes it easy to believe the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Three feet tall, with a six-foot wingspan, wood storks have an air of the Jurassic about them, and invite comparisons to the historical pterodactyl or the mythological roc.
Wood storks build their nests in the very tops of the trees and they
nest in communities with up to twenty-five nests in a tree. They typically have three to five eggs and when the chicks are born, they weigh around two ounces and are completely helpless.
The parents feed week old chicks fifteen times a day and they grow rapidly. The fight for food is fierce and if food is scarce only the older chicks will survive. By fourteen days, each will weigh ten times its hatching weight and by twenty-eight days, it is twenty-five times heavier.
During the breeding season, wood storks need over four hundred pounds of fish to feed themselves and their offsprings. When the weather is very warm, they will also scoop up water and bring it to the nest to drool into the mouths of the chicks. I find nature amazing and it is one of the reasons I love photographing it.
By the time the young are four weeks old, both parents leave the nest in search of food and this continues until the chicks "fledge" or leave the nest.The young may return to the nest for another ten to fifteen days to roost or to try and get food from the parents.To see one of these large birds in flight is a treat; so large but still so graceful.
One of the reasons they nest high in the trees is to make it harder for predators to access. Raccoons are big on this list but in the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm there are other deterrents in the waters that surround the trees. Remember these guys?
Any predators that try to reach the trees will have these to stop them. I'm guessing a pretty good deterrent. Even if another bird gets too close to their nest, the wood stork will swoop in and remind them to keep moving on. When this large bird comes flying in and lands next to them, other birds take notice and usually leave without a fight.
As you can tell I really find these birds fascinating, Anything that large that can fly like they do is inspiring to observe. I hope that someday you are all able to enjoy their grace and beauty.