Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
In the United States, Wood Storks can be found year-round in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, the birds breed from Mexico to northern Argentina, and in the Caribbean islands of Cuba and Hispaniola. After nesting, some move into Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and North Carolina, mainly along coastlines and large rivers. In the summer, flocks from western Mexico may appear in southern California and the American Southwest.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here
Wood Storks use a mosaic of freshwater and brackish wetlands for feeding, nesting, and roosting. Seasonal and annual differences in rainfall and surface water often cause the birds to switch habitats. They forage in freshwater marshes, tidal creeks and pools, stock ponds, managed impoundments, and seasonally flooded roadside or agricultural ditches. The birds nest primarily in cypress, but also in mangrove trees.
Wood Storks often feed in groups, constantly moving through open shallow wetlands where their fish prey is highly concentrated. They primarily consume saltwater and brackish fish species less than ten inches long, especially sunfish. On occasion, they also eat amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles, mammals, arthropods, and other birds. Sometimes, Wood Storks stir the water with their feet in an attempt to startle hiding prey. Feeding birds wade through the water, their heavy bills immersed and partially open. Upon contacting a fish, the mandibles quickly snap shut, and the bird raises its head and swallows the food—a technique called "grope feeding" or "tactilocation."
Wood Storks nest in colonies ranging from a few to thousands of pairs. Seasonally monogamous, they begin breeding at three or four years of age. During courtship, adults have under-wings of pale salmon, long fluffy feathers under their tails, and vivid pink toes. Mating follows a period of ritualized courtship displays. In Florida, Wood Storks lay eggs from October through June. Storks in Georgia and South Carolina lay eggs from March through May. Nests—ranging from three feet high in mangrove colonies to 100 feet high in cypress trees—are constructed of sticks, vines, leaves, and Spanish moss. Wood Storks also nest successfully in artificial structures. Females typically lay one clutch of two to five eggs, but may re-lay after nest failure. Both parents incubate for about 30 days, and both regurgitate whole fish to feed their offspring. The young leave the nest after nine weeks, but are fed for another three to four weeks.
Not considered true migrants, Wood Storks move in response to the availability of food. When food is scarce, the birds relocate to areas of greater abundance. After breeding, the birds occasionally disperse as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Mississippi and Alabama. Storks sighted in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and points west may originate from Mexico. The lack of thermals needed to cover long distances may restrict the storks from moving between Caribbean islands, where they are thought to be permanent residents.