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Wood Stork

Mycteria americana

Wood Stork, Mycteria americana, photo © by Michael Plagens

This Wood Stork wandered north from Mexico and found a suitable home at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, Gilbert, Arizona, 23 Aug. 2009.

In the Sonoran Desert, the Wood Stork, is a rare stray from northern Mexico. Before the extensive marshes, woodland corridors, and riverine habitats that existed along the Colorado and Gila Rivers were destroyed it is possible that these birds were more frequent. Hurricane Jimena (Sept. 2009) is forecast to move up the Gulf of California, and if it does sea birds may be pushed ahead of it and wander north into Arizona and the Sonoran Desert. Finding open water, even wastewater reclamation sites, will induce these birds to stop and search for food and rest. Coyotes and cats will be a threat unless they can find secure islands or tall trees in which to perch.

Along the west coast of Mexico as far north as Guaymas there are mangroves and extensive salt water estuaries that support wood storks. When resting the black feathers in the wings are concealed, but in flight or when the bird is feeding, using it's wing as a parasol to block glare from the sun, the black feathers become visible. The strong bill can probe deep between floating plants and into mud to extract fish, amphibians and invertebrate prey. The adult bird has a dark, nearly black bill; juvenile birds, like the one at left, have paler bills.

Accidental Stray - Late Summer and Autumn

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009