Thursday, May 5, 2011


If I told you I saw a dinosaur in Florida, you might think I would be referring to these cuddly little guys!!

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 SulBrazil) might be of the living species; it is at most from the Late Pleistocene age, a few 10,000s of years ago.[12]

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.

As one of the largest birds that breed in North America, and the only native stork on this continent, wood storks put the “big" in “big bird." Witnessing one of these massive creatures take off is a rare treat. Although they historically ranged throughout many parts of the United States, and may have numbered as many as 150,000 at one time, habitat destruction reduced the count to around 11,000. The breeding populations of these birds are now found mainly in the Southeast.

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.


Aaron said...

As always your post is both informative and entertaining. You tricked me though, I thought I was gonna be in for a post on alligators today. :)

The storks do look very prehistoric. How many days a week do you go to the alligator farm to get these images?

AJ said...

Totally with ya, Jim. Even little cuddly birds, there's something primal and prehistoric about their eyes. Reminds me of Jurassic Park. :)

Btw, that alligator looks obese! Must have binged on a lot of "big birds"!

Very informative post! I love reading about wildlife.

Alfandi said...

nice..wish we have all the big birds here..they don't look skittish being photographed..

Anonymous said...

OH MY GOODNESS! That 1st photo is awesome!!! Love it...

Hey...FYI...url changed this am...(which you know cause you visited earlier) Won't you please come back & follow?

Abhisek Panda said...

Very informative post and the photographs are great. :D

When The Heart Speaks

Angel Eyes said...

WOW what great pics you must have a really good camera??) LOL Just kidding xxooxx great shots and I know there are dinasours in Florida I see them every day just wish i could photograph them and talk about them as well as you do bravo Jim great posts as usial (yeah I am back) lmao

Finding One's Way said...

What a wing spread. Beautiful pictures as always... Makes me miss FL.

Eleonora said...

Magnificent pictures!!! I've been to FLorida twice and I loved it there,,, once as a volunteer to help the victims of Charlie hurricane, and the second time was... for the Disney World!!! :)

sm said...

beautiful shots

Anonymous said...

I could say how informative this was... i was. I could say how lovely the photos were...they were. Or I could ask.... How close do you get to those alligators? My uncle use to hunt (I think that is the proper term don't want to turn him into a poacher) them when he lived in Florida. Luckily, I never saw any when I was there. Although I saw a giant tortoise in the middle of the road when we were coming back from Daytona Beach.

melissa said...

i thought you wanted to surprise us again with your title :P...and then i thought you were referring to the alligators :P... in the end, i wished for barney :P... but you wrote great stuff...i was loaded with information...from my favorite blog page... as i looked at them, their wings swinging gracefully and their bodies almost soft like cotton, i already felt myself a part of your photos... seeing them for real would be a grace from God ;)... wonderful as ever :)

Alpana Jaiswal said...

Words fail me Jim,its out of this world,as Melissa said,would love to see this live...

Prasad N said...

great pics and very informative article. I managed to use my Nikon to shoot some pics. Do check them out.

Prasad Np