We get many wading bird visitors in My Florida Backyard. A couple of our favorites are Limpkins (which we've written about before) and Wood Storks, both of which are on the endangered list in the United States. It's exciting to know that our lake provides habitat for these birds, which we see regularly enough that if we didn't know they were endangered we would never have guessed.
Wood Storks (Mycteria americana) are the only storks that live and breed in the US. They're found in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, and a few isolated populations are known in North and South Carolina. During the drier months, they're often found in pretty heavy concentrations around freshwater lakes and watering holes, so as the rainy season comes to an end, we'll see larger numbers of them in and around My Florida Backyard.
Wood Storks are easily identifiable by their bald black heads. Presumably this lack of feathers makes feeding easier as there are no feathers to dry and preen after dunking their heads in the water. These birds wade in the shallows and use their brightly colored feet as lures. They trail their open beaks through the water until it makes contact with something (hopefully food), at which point it snaps shut with a reflex response time of 25 milliseconds - an incredibly fast response time among vertebrates.
Wood Storks are also easy to identify in flight. As you can see in the picture above, taken a few years ago, the bottom half of their wings are black. Combined with their dark heads, this makes them easy to tell apart from other large white birds in flight.
We're always very conscious of the amazing array of wildlife in My Florida Backyard. Knowing a species in endangered makes a sighting that much more exciting, but we value every thing that walks or flies through our gardens each day, including these magnificent Wood Storks.