Of all the wading birds found in the Everglades, the Wood Stork is possibly the ugliest. These large white birds with a bald head may not be the most beautiful of the wading birds, but they are quite interesting and the most endangered.
First off, they have one of the fastest reflexes found in nature. They feed by dragging their bill, partially open, through the water. Often, they use their feet to stir up the bottom, kicking invertebrates and small fish into the water column. They feed strictly by touch; when they feel something in their bill, the snap it close incredibly fast. They are able to react and close their bill so rapidly that it is one of the fastest in the entire natural world.
Second, they are a bit of a finicky nester. Due to their feeding habits, these birds require very specific water levels to capture enough prey to feed their young. If water levels rise too much during the dry season due to rains and artificial water control, Wood Storks will quickly abandon their nests, even if they have small chicks. There have been years in recent decades were some of the largest rookeries, like that at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, have been totally abandoned. Water levels in the Everglades are crucial to so many species, but few species are as picky as the Wood Stork.