Hundreds of wood storks are migrating thru the Rio Grande Valley this summer taking advantage of receding resacas to forage for fish and other aquatic creatures. Worldwide there are 17 species of storks, but only the wood stork is regularly found in the United States.
Standing nearly four feet tall and with a wingspan of five feet, wood storks are impressive birds. Wood storks get their name for their propensity to nest and roost in trees, but the visitors to deep South Texas are spending most of their time wading the shallow resacas in search of sustenance. The big white birds feathered body contrasts markedly with its naked legs and head.
The skin on the unfeathered head forms into scale like plates giving the bird an appearance much like a vulture, and taxonomically wood storks are related to vultures. Until this summer, wood storks were an endangered species, but they were recently de-listed to threatened status thanks to conservation efforts. Estimates vary, but in the 1930's as many as 60,000 wood storks are thought to have resided in the United States, but due primarily to habitat loss in their nesting areas in Florida their numbers dropped to less than 10,000. With protected nesting sites now being utilized in Georgia and South Carolina in addition to their Florida stronghold wood storks numbers have soared to some 20,000 nationwide. With their massive bills, wood storks probe the shallow, murky waters feeling for prey that their sensitive bills adroitly grasp, and what a marvelous sight to see scores of these majestic birds gracing the old meanderings of the Rio Grande. With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore