Houston Audubon Beak of the Week:
Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
Family: (Ciconiidae) Storks
Tall and long-legged, the wood stork is the only member of the stork family native to America. White body with contrasting black edged wings and tail. Has a distinct dark, featherless head (down to the upper neck) and thick, down-curved bill.
A post-breeding disperser from the tropics. They can be seen soaring high above in groups as they migrate across the landscape looking for receding freshwater ponds and stranded fish therein.
Wood storks fly with neck and legs extended, interrupting strong wing beats with brief glides; their wingspan can be up to 5 1/2 feet.
Male and female wood storks usually mate for life, they will build the nest together, and together incubate the eggs and feed the chicks. The chicks fledge in about two months.
The speed at which the wood stork shuts it bill is one of the fastest reflexes known in vertebrate species!
Photographs by Greg Lavaty
(via: Houston Audubon)