By Animal Care Professional Marcus Kowitz
African Open-billed Stork
This particular species stands 3-feet-tall and is characterized by its all-black plumage with hints of iridescence found on the feathers, especially on the chest. They get their name from their uniquely shaped beak, which helps to acquire food. African Open-billed Storks can remove snails with their beaks without even breaking the shell! These storks are currently classified as near-threatened due to habitat destruction and pesticides. In the wild, Open-billed Storks can be found through central Africa in rivers and swampy areas. At ZooTampa, our Open-billed Stork can be found in the large free-flight aviary near the Manatee Fountain.
This stork is commonly found throughout Eastern Africa. They are mostly white with a red face and a large yellow beak. A fun fact about this species is that traces of pink coloration appear on their wings during breeding season. While most birds rely on their vision to hunt, yellow-billed storks use their sense of touch instead. They will wade through the shallows with their beak slightly open, swinging it back and forth through the water. When something touches their beak, they will snap it closed lightning fast and eat whatever they catch whole – woah! This species in particular have legs that appear to have a chalky look to them, this is due to the urates they deposit on their legs to help cool down their body during extreme heat. The water left behind evaporates and helps draw heat away, similar to how sweat helps us cool off! Although their conservation status is considered as least concern, populations have declined over the recent year due to poaching and habitat destruction. The yellow-billed storks at ZooTampa can currently be seen in our Sulawesi Aviary on the Asian boardwalk.
This stork is North America’s only native stork species and can be found primarily in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. This species can also be found throughout Central America, the Caribbean and South America. Wood Storks are sometimes referred to by their nicknames (‘Wood Ibis’ or ‘Flinthead’) due to their unique beak shape and shiny scales that appear on their head and neck. Wood Storks live in swampy areas usually near water, where they feed on all sorts of aquatic animals. This species is currently classified as threatened due to habitat destruction, pesticides and disruption of natural hydrological processes, usually because of agriculture. Native Wood Storks can be seen throughout ZooTampa, around the Florida Boardwalk and Safari Africa.