Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wood Stork--Sketching a Curious Face

While sketching this Wood Stork, I couldn't help but wonder what these facial characteristics were all about--scaly bald skin, all those wrinkles, that enormous beak. What is it about this bird's life style that makes these features so important?Though related to vultures who also have bald heads, carrion is not a typical food source for Wood Storks. They are primarily fish-eating birds that also eat crayfish, shrimp, reptiles and frogs, and even small mammals. Sibley's Guide to Bird Life and Behavior says the stork's feeding habits are the key to understanding these peculiar facial features.
Wood Storks are wading birds with a specialized type of foraging called tactile feeding or "grope feeding". They don't have to see their prey but rather can catch prey by dragging their open beak in shallow, murky water where prey is concentrated, snapping their bill shut when prey is contacted. This automatic trigger-like reflex is said to be the fastest movement of any known for vertebrates, clocked at 0.025 seconds.

Wood Storks walk as they forage, sometimes foraging in groups and raising their wings, maneuvers that help to stir prey movement. But it's the shallow, muddy water that holds the key to their baldness, according to Sibley. A bald head is easier to clean than a feathered one after muddy foraging.
The Wood Stork is an endangered species in North America. Though Wood Storks are found in other areas of the world, the North American population "plummeted from an estimated 150,000 individuals in the early 1900's to about 15,000 today." (Sibley) The single most dramatic impact has been disturbance of natural water level cycles in the Florida Everglades, an area that formerly supported the majority of our North American Wood Stork population.
Fortunately, the species has shifted some of its breeding activity to more northerly wetlands in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, but wetland preservation and close monitoring continue to be vital to the survival of this species.
I observed this particular Wood Stork at the Viera Wetlands, during my visit to Brevard County Florida and the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife festival in January. It was a thrill to view this bird at close range before he flew to rejoin his flock mates and showed me his pink feet! (Click image above to enlarge)
Wood Storks were one of the many species that I enjoyed while visiting the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands with guide, photographer and Master Naturalist, Charlie Corbeil.
You will find more about Wood Storks and related information by visiting the following links:
Audubon's Wood Stork --ecology and status; Audubon Everglades Preservation
Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival and David McCree's festival reports at Blog the Beach.
Visit Space Coast Eco for informative descriptions of key natural areas and field trips, and Space Coast Beach Buzz and FloridaBeachBasics for more Brevard County visitor and wildlife information.
Click this link to join current political action designed to help protect wetlands.
To read about my first encounter with Wood Storks, click here. And to view all my posts related to Space Coast Birds and the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, click here.
Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #77 at Birdfreak.com, to promote the conservation of our world's birds.

18 comments:

  1. Great sketch and informative summary. I have never seen a stork like this and it does look fascinating. Thank you always for your outstanding entries~

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  2. What a wonderful post, Vickie! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful work and all the great information about the Woodstork. They really are bizarre creatures, aren't they?!

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  3. Great post! Astonishingly beautiful watercolor! I just returned from Florida and saw several wood storks, wondered about the reason for their bald head and neck, and very much appreciate being enlightened on that topic.

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  4. Excellent artwork Vickie,you have certainly got some talent!.

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  5. Great post, Vickie!! Lovely illustration and journal pages. The info is great. They are one of my favorite birds.

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  6. They are so beautiful in flight, but then when you see them close up on the ground, they are not exactly one of nature's great beauties. :) Great post, Vickie. Interesting background info I'd never heard before.

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  7. That's great info about the Wood Stork. I'm especially impressed by the clock-speed of their prey-grabbing prowess. As always, wonderful artwork!

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  8. Excellent post...your watercolor is so great, I love it! and the photos are beautiful as well!

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  9. Awesome post and photos of the Wood Storks. They are neat looking birds. Your drawing are wonderful.

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  10. ...really enjoyed this one! I love Wood Storks. Saw my first one last summer in Hilton Head. I love those ancient faces and your painting is fantastic!

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  11. Wood Storks may look "ugly" but your drawing brought out their beauty.

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  12. Thanks for sharing your lovely images & all of the information about the wood stork!

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  13. Awesome sketches of the Wood Stork Vickie! I have signed the petition to save the wetlands.

    Haven't hey figured it out yet that it is WAY more expensive to try to reconstruct a natural wetlands than to save one?

    We must constantly work to keep any and all species from extinction! This is exactly why I became a "Species Champion".

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  14. Great sketch and great pics of an elegant species.

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  15. I love your painting of the Wood Stork! Awesome!

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  16. Wonderful Drawing..photos and post Vickie!

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  17. thanks for the information. There is more to birds then one realise. :) Great painting and footage. :)

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  18. Great sketch and watercolor rendering! Your photos are first rate, as well! You have inspired me to start my own Nature's Sketchbook :-)

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