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Wood Stork
Mycteria americana
– Family
Authors: Coulter, M. C., J. A. Rodgers, J. C. Ogden, and F. C. Depkin

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Distinguishing Characteristics

Juvenile Wood Stork, FL, March.
Adult Wood Stork
Adult Wood Stork in flight

Large wading bird: 85–115 cm tall, wingspan 150–165 cm. Adults entirely white, except primaries, secondaries, and short tail are black, with greenish and purplish sheen; head and neck unfeathered, scaly, and dark gray; bill black, long and very thick at base, tapering evenly and decurved on distal half. Sexes similar in appearance, and plumages similar throughout year, except that during breeding season, undertail-coverts are longer and plumelike; buff or pinkish on wing-lining or elsewhere on plumage. Legs and feet dark and toes pink during breeding season (pink may extend up leg almost to tarsal joint), fading to flesh color during remainder of year. Subadults similar to adults, but head and neck covered with grayish feathers, which are gradually lost as bird matures. Subadults also have pale yellow or straw-colored bill that gradually darkens with age.

Often feeds in groups in open wetlands. Moves continuously when feeding, probing and moving its open bill from side to side, often using Foot-Stirring and Wing-Flicking behaviors (see Food habits: feeding, below). Often feeds in lines, moving through water as a group.

Wood Stork is unique in appearance and unlikely to be confused with any other species within its range, except during flight, when it may resemble American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), or King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa; Howell and Webb 1995). Wood Stork flies with neck extended as ibises do, but in flight it is distinguished from White Ibis by larger size, and by black on both primaries and secondaries (not just primaries). Distinguished from American White Pelican (which frequently soars like Wood Stork) by long, projecting legs and black (not white) tail. Distinguished from King Vulture by long (not short) neck and long, projecting legs (Howell and Webb 1995).