443 Pounds of Fish and it shows!!

Wood Stork at ~ 4 weeks

Wood Stork families are said to require 443 pounds of fish in one breeding season! My recent visits to the Wood Stork nests I have been following, certainly show evidence of abundant fish consumption. When I visited in early May,  I had intended on getting a nice image to make a pretty portrait of a 4-5 week old wood stork. However, large quantities of fish remains on the bills of hungry chicks and bits of the same matting their feathers made this a somewhat unrealistic enterprise. In between meal flights from Mom or Dad, the chicks will pluck at leftovers still in the bottom of the nest, and of course,  lay down in the nest. Add to that an earthy down wind scent and a few buzzing flies, well a rookery is what it is!  They looked so cute until I  raised my camera viewfinder to find a portal to rather wretched looking nestlings in very bad need of a bath. I exclaimed out loud to that effect and another photographer on site laughed in agreement. Birds always look pretty in National Geographic don’t they? So, I made a trip a week later, thinking I might have better luck, only to find the chicks a bit taller but with no better hygiene! Barring a cloud burst sometime soon and a visit right after a natural washing, I do not think  we will see clean chicks until after they fledge. Until they learn to fly, the little ones are stuck in the nest with no chance of wading in the cleansing wetland waters.

But, despite all that, it is extremely entertaining to watch them. I mentioned before that one of the wood stork nicknames is “preacher bird.” I’ve read that this is due to the fact that they stand around after eating a look as if they are seriously contemplating life and they do in general possess a very distinguished and learned manner of bearing. It occurred to me that there might be another reason. I haven’t shown too well in the images below but when the parent lands in the nest and chicks think food is on the way, they will assume a position on their knees in the nest facing their parent and raise their heads in near unison up and down vertically, clamoring audibly for some sustenance. This creates quite a racket and they look almost in worship, rocking their bills up and down at the feet of their rather stately Mom or Dad.


Another observation that I never really noticed with the great herons, is that when a neighboring parent wood stork lands with food and is feeding its chicks, the nestlings of other nearby nests do not react. They must sense there is fish nearby but the chicks of a given nest only go crazy with wing flapping and the bill rocking when their own parent lands at their nest. Perhaps this is so obvious because the wood stork nests are quite close to each other and maybe the heron nests I am more familiar with are further apart.

In case you were wondering why the top image of the young wood stork looks fairly handsome, in order to show off one of these interesting fellows, I invested some Photoshop time in cleaning the bill and matted feathers. These birds at 4 or 5 weeks already look rather poised and elegant. Although the wood storks have been down listed from endangered to threatened in my area, still it is not a common sight to see wood storks nesting and especially with such a good vantage point. I am curious as to when they get the flinty neck texture, but suspect it is after they fledge and mature. It takes 4 years for a wood stork to mature and they can live 3o years.

Three Wood Stork Chicks at nest ready to be fed


Wood Stork Chicks at ~ 5 weeks awaiting a feeding


Wood Stork Parent feeding large fish to chicks


Wood Stork Siblings at about 4 weeks


~ by Judy on May 18, 2015.

10 Responses to “443 Pounds of Fish and it shows!!”

  1. Wonderful captures, and hats off to you for spending time with Photoshop to clean up the top image. By the way, I like your images better than National Geographic. Real photos by a real lady!

    • Photoshop is truly helpful when you want to clean up an image a bit for viewing or maybe even a nice print of an individual. Still hope to work on some other photos for a nice portrait of a juvenile wood stork. And, thanks for such a nice compliment!! Really brightened up my day!!

  2. Wow they are getting huge Judy, I did not realise they could live for that long. Thanks for sharing the progression. Photo’s are beautiful.

    • They are growing so fast. I read they can fledge at 9 weeks or so…I still wonder about that but will go and see them a couple of more times before they do head off on their own. Hope to share a bit more of their maturation while I can.

  3. I had no idea there were birds that live that long — well, except for some of the parrots and such. I do think I assumed that was because of captivity, and a reduction in predation.

    Anyway, your photos are marvelous. I especially like the last one, and the first image of the three of them. Did the phrase “three stooges” ever cross your mind? They look so comical. I think it must be wonderful to have photography as an excuse to sit around and watch them for hours on end!

    • Yes, three stooges or three amigos came to mind. They do look comical and when you see them wobbling around in the nest even more so. But, they are getting more and more stable on their feet and soon will be trying out their wings. I suppose you are right that photography is an excuse to hang out and be entertained by the meanderings of the nestlings and the efforts of their parents to secure the next generation. I like that last one of the pair too. They certainly have a steady, attentive gaze don’t they?!

      I wanted to add that the great herons can live 15 – 22 years or so in the wild, but it is all dependent on predation and other things whether they do reach their biological potential life span. The Wood Storks appear to be especially long lived. I’ve read this is one reason that a bad season or two of drought or flood where they don’t nest isn’t terrible for survival of the species. Only, long term disruption to their habitat and feeding patterns.

  4. my heart swells when i look at the images of these precious birdlings! they’re so unique and precious! great job, as always.

    • It really made me smile to read your word choice of ‘precious birdlings’……I like birdlings!! It is so cute!! I hope I will be able to go and take a few more pictures of the young wood storks to share before they fledge as I am curious to see their development for the first time.

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