Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Wood Stork - Mycteria americana
Sole representative of CICONIIDAE in NC
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General Comments The Wood Stork is probably the most significant wader in the state, because it is a Federally listed species and is one of largest of the state's waterbirds. (On 26 Jun 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downlisted the species from Endangered to Threatened status.) Of more importance is that only since 2004 has it been documented to breed in North Carolina. For 50 or more years, significant numbers have moved northward into the southern coastal areas after the breeding season has ended. Sometimes over 100 birds can be seen in the Sunset Beach (Brunswick) area, and birds were also regular as far inland as Robeson (at Warwick Mill Bay). Numbers of the species have been increasing in the Carolinas in the past 20 years, though this might simply represent a northward shift in the breeding populations, as that in southern Florida has been on the decline due to habitat loss, drought, and other factors. Storks nest in inland swamps and man-made lakes/ponds, and they primarily feed in shallow freshwater pools, being very particular about water depth (often 6-12"). However, they also feed in shallow brackish and saltwater pools and channels.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
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Coastal Plain Summer resident and post-breeding visitor, increasing. Locally common only at its primary breeding site (the privately-owned Lay's Lake in Columbus) and at its primary post-breeding site (Twin Lakes on the mainland portion of Sunset Beach). Elsewhere, rare (but increasing) in the southeastern corner of the state (mainly Robeson, Columbus, and Brunswick); very rare to rare (but increasing) farther northward, including the Outer Banks. Primarily early Jun into Nov, but returns to breeding site at least by Apr; several records for Dec, Jan, and Feb, but very rare in winter. Peak counts: 190 breeding pairs, Lay's Lake, 2007; 161 nests, Twin Lakes, summer 2012; 130, Twin Lakes, 15 Aug 2010; 105, Twin Lakes/Sunset Beach, summer-fall 1996. A count of 57 at Chocowinity (Beaufort) on 3 Jul 2017 was notable for the central Coastal Plain. Since 2000, birds have been seen in the breeding season as far north as Lumberton (Robeson) and in Duplin. In fact, in 2012, two additional nesting colonies were found: about 20 nests just east of Tabor City (Columbus) and along the Black River along the Bladen/Pender line.
Piedmont Post-breeding visitor, increasing. Very rare to now locally rare, mainly in Jun and Jul, but scattered records from early May to mid-Oct. Generally at reservoirs and other large lakes. A report of 150-200, at Elkin, on 23 Jun 1955 [Chat 19:? link], with some specimens taken, is quite remarkable, assuming this is not a typographical error. Otherwise, the highest counts came in 2011 -- 53 at Falls Lake, 3 Sep 2011; 15, Jordan Lake, 24 Sep 2011.
Mountains Post-breeding visitor; casual to (now) very rare in the southern and central mountains (only), with about eight records. Most records from Jul and Sep. One at the Biltmore Estate (Buncombe), 1 Jun 2017; one at Rosman (Transylvania), 24 Oct 1995; and especially three at Asheville, 2 Dec 1977 are quite notable, especially as the last is one of the very few state winter reports. Peak counts: 7, Brevard, 9 Jul 1989; 3, Pisgah Fish Hatchery (Transylvania), 3 Aug 1994; 3, Asheville (see above).
Finding Tips The species can almost always be found around the margins of the two freshwater ponds at Twin Lakes, particularly from Jul into Sep. The eastern pond is better, and the storks are often found on flats or in shallow water at the back edge of the pond, away from the golfers. Birds may also be seen resting in trees around the ponds, or at times in the salt marshes and flats between the ponds and Sunset Beach. The species' rarity away from this area is shocking, despite seemingly good habitat at Orton Plantation and other sites in the Wilmington/Fort Fisher area. However, sightings in the Eastern half of the state are increasing.
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Attribution LeGrand[2017-12-18], LeGrand[2017-08-24], LeGrand[2017-08-23]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Mycteria americana