Wood Stork Fledglings

Woodstork at about 9 wks of age already assumes a stately pose

This post marks the conclusion of what I call the Season of the Wood Storks!! I’ve been visiting the rookery at Wakodahatchee for five years now and every season brings something new. Occasionally a new species I had not encountered previously will appear in my viewfinder, but more often it is the repositioning of nests within the wetland which gives me better, closer access of a particular species for photography. My first year it was the Great Blue Heron chicks which I thought looked like little rock stars in their nests, another year it was the Louisiana Heron aka Tri-color Heron which took over with their rambunctious young scampering up and down the pond apple island like monkeys, another season it was the White Egrets with their mating rituals and glorious poses,  and more recently it was the little skin-head anhinga chicks which captured my interest. But, the season of 2015 brought the first ever Wood Stork nests on the front pond apple tree island so perfect for getting a great view. Usually, they are around but located too far for my 300mm lens to adequately record the detail I like. So what a great year!!

Wood Storks take 4 years to mature and can live as long as 30 years, so they are a long lived species. I’ve always thought the appearance of the adults was so interesting and as I followed my favourite nest this season I did wonder when the chicks would lose their juvenile feathered neck for the flinty neck texture for which they are known or when they would develop the frontal forehead plate and bald head. I do not have an answer to that by my own observation as they fledge with brown neck feathers and just a small remnant of their nestling white head feathers on the center of the upper forehead. Although, by the 12 week mark the hairline has receded quite a bit and the beginnings of a flattened dark area where the forehead plate will be are evident.   But, from the first couple of weeks the nestlings already exhibit a rather stately carriage. I will say that Wood Stork chicks for all their elegance are truly the messiest birds while they are growing up and with the pounds of fish they consume, it is understandable. Even now they could use a bath!!

I have enjoyed watching these birds nest and fledge and have loved sharing some of the images with you as they have grown!! The first three pictures are of the chicks at about 9 weeks. The latter three of the fledglings learning to fish out in the shallows are at about age 12 weeks.

Three Woodstork chicks ready to fledge

 The nest I have been following had all of its chicks survive to fledge. In the Wood Stork world this is a very good outcome!! The youngster on the upper left appears to have fought the good fight somewhere along the line as its bill is damaged as you can see; that is not just fish stuck to the bill.

Woodstork Chick at about 9 wks old tilts its tail to preen

 Wood Storks have a short black tail. This chick looks rather cute trying to tilt its tail to preen!

Empty Woodstork Nest

I had intended to return to visit much sooner to see the birds fledge, but after a delay of one month, I found the empty nest. I wandered until nearly sunset but the fledglings did not return during that time. As you can see below, I found them fishing off in the distant shallows.

Woodstork Fledgling at about 3 months of age learning to use the foot swish technique

Wood Stork Fledgling at about 12 weeks old. Already it was performing the foot swish technique to stir up a meal.


Woodstork Fledglings learn to fish - about 3 months old

 These two fledglings are trying out their tacto-location skills but look more like they are playing with the turtle making its way past them.

Woodstork Fledglings learning to fish-about 3 months old


Well, it has been fun watching these creatures grow up and go off on their own. I did see that there were adults not too far from the juveniles–maybe monitoring their fishing lessons!! I am sure I will see them around again.



~ by Judy on July 4, 2015.

21 Responses to “Wood Stork Fledglings”

  1. Great series, what a treat to see juveniles in their home growing up ~ a view of wood storks that is priceless as your photos show.

    • That is exactly how I look at it….I get to see them At Home!! It was Linda Leinen (who’s wonderful blog is The Task at Hand ) who put that idea in my head. She lives on the Texas coast and watches the birds At Work, fishing and I see them At Home!! In fact Phil Lanoue Photography photographs birds At Work too. He has the best images of herons with sorrowful looking fish in their beaks, and I get to see what they do with those fish…digesting them for their chicks!! It is great!!

      • I’ve seen Phil’s work (will have to check him out again since I’ve been AWOL the past 2 months), and also will check out Linda’s site ~ thank you and enjoy the week!

  2. Judy what an amazing experience for you to watch them grow and change. Your photo’s are so beautiful. Thank you for taking us along on this awesome journey.

    • It is so my pleasure to be able to do it. I used to just take pictures for myself with thoughts of wall prints or greeting cards in mind. Now when I am out I think in terms of sharing the information, adventure and images with my WordPress friends!! I love the outlet, thanks for loving it too!!

  3. Again, your photos are superb. Your patience in capturing these moments totally flabber me. As said above, excellent series. 🙂

    • It was just a unique opportunity this year with the Wood Storks. I do wonder if they will occupy the same island again next year. While they nested a bit after the Great Blue Herons in the same area, I think they did displace some of them. There was a Great Blue Heron nest on the front island with one big chick on one of the days I was photographing the Wood Storks. A gentleman who was standing near me said that he saw a Wood Stork toss out the sibling chick in that Great Blue Heron nest. Like all wild animal parents, birds are very territorial when it comes to their offspring. Guess we humans are pretty territorial when it comes to our offspring too!! 🙂

      • Yea, I am presently coping (again) with highly territorial Lesser Black Backed Gulls who seem to consider me w threat whenever I open my door. (At this time of the year I co-habit a gull breeding colony. Oh joys!)

  4. So glad I stumbled upon your wonderful work! Beautiful images of these Wood Storks~

    • I appreciate your comment and your visit!! Truly nice to meet others who love the wading birds which grace our South Florida wetlands!! We are so lucky to live in such a place.

  5. I couldn’t stop laughing, Judy. These photos are marvelous, partly because of your skill, and partly because these birds are just humorous. The first two photos remind me of Plato, whom I’ve been thinking of because of the recent BP settlement. I like to think that perhaps Plato and I teaming up had at least a tiny bit to do with that. (Phalanxs of attorneys probably didn’t hurt.)

    This weekend I was at a friend’s bay house down the coast. She has a Janthina janthina shell in one of her display cases. She’s the one I was with when I first spotted it, and hence met you!

    I love seeing your birds move from one stage to another. If only those poor anhingas weren’t so homely!

    • It is true that they can be both distinguished in stance and humorous in behavior and expression at the same time!! While in different orders, wood storks can certainly remind one of a pelican in some poses.

      I look around sometimes for a Janthina shell around here, but haven’t found any to date. Can’t even recall if I have one somewhere in my boxes of shells I collected in the Philippines years ago. One of these days I’ll begin to photograph some of them. I have a small group in a display cabinet..maybe those.

      I am glad Janthina drew me to your essay and that you had dear old Plato fix his cool gaze on the matter of BP and the Gulf coast wetlands!!

      Well, the poor little anhingas do mature into elegance do they not!!?

  6. great documentary 🙂

    • Thanks, I wanted to share my first experience with watching nesting wood storks since it isn’t the commonest of sights!! Wonder if they will nest so close again next year!!

  7. Brilliant pictures, they’re certainly striking birds and I’m glad all of those in ‘your’ nest fledged successfully 🙂

    • You nailed how I tend to feel about a nest I follow…that it is MY nest!! When I am out there I look around at everything, but begin and end with My nest!! LOL!! And, different years it is a different one. I should post my very first favourite nest. It was a Great Blue Heron nest and not even close, but it was my first view ever of baby great blues and I loved the curl of the leaves around the nest and the light behind it.

      • I feel the same about the animals I watch – there’s a little family of Canada Geese on our local pond and every time I visit I count them to make sure all the babies have survived – fortunately they have, though they don’t look like babies anymore 🙂

      • Counting the great heron and other big wading birds is a bit easier since I have never seen the number start at more than 3. But, by my office are a bunch of Musgovy ducks which seem to be constantly reproducing. I remember counting about 15 chicks for one of them. But, their seems to be a lot of loss with those as the number dwindle quite a bit. Maybe it is because they insist on waddling along in car traffic?

  8. Something I have yet to have had the honor of seeing personally: Wood stork nests and their babies! Usually they’re too far for me to spy anything noteworthy, so your captures of them at this distance are incredibly fun and beautiful. I just adore these guys.

    • Me too!! Such a great year for taking pictures of them. I couldn’t believe it when I took a friend out there one morning and woodstorks were all over that island. I just knew they were scopingi it out for nesting and when I saw a pair mating, I knew there was a nest and hoped they would succeed and stay. Such fun really!! Now that I know what a fledged nestling looks like and what an adult looks like, maybe I can guestimate the age based on when the neck gets flinty.

  9. You’ve got some excellent stork pictures there.

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