It’s generally considered bad behavior to scream at birds and yet there I was flailing my arms and yelling at an endangered Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) who was gracefully flying near my home. Everyone knows that the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) brings babies and pickles, but the bald, black-headed, wrinkle-skinned Wood Stork brings ugly babies and my wife was due in two weeks.
The Wood Stork is an opportunistic nester. Too little water and their diet of fish, frogs and invertebrates may dry up. Too much water and the same dietary cast of characters can easily disperse, making it tough to for nesting parents to capture enough food to feed themselves, let alone their young. To raise two chicks they require nearly 450 pounds of food throughout the nesting season. If they can’t find food, they don’t nest and if the season goes sour they may abandon a nest.
In the air they are remarkably elegant, using long, broad wings to soar on thermal updrafts and swoop in to marshes and swamps. On approach they drop down their landing gear, a pair of thin, sturdy legs that reminds me of the wheels on a plane. Up close they have a face that looks like a vulture. Although younger storks retain a slightly feathered head, “stork-patterned baldness” sets in upon adulthood, providing an easier feeding experience as they dunk their smooth, domed heads in the water to seek prey.
I love Wood Storks. I can’t help but point one out every time I see one. I’m just superstitious and on this particular day as the white and black bird glides over the pines and nears my lawn, my soon-to-be parent instinct leads to my maniacal “nooooooooooooooooooooooo”. It works and the bird majestically takes a slightly altered flight line.
Theodoro Corradino was born on 1/31/2011. If he’s anything but the most beautiful baby I wouldn’t know. I would imagine the Wood Storks think the same of their hatchlings.