|Conservation status||Population of southeastern United States was reportedly over 150,000 at one time, but by early 1990s probably not much over 10,000. Destruction of habitat and disruption of water flow through southern Florida were major causes of decline. Breeding population of far southern Florida has dropped sharply since 1970s, some of these birds apparently shifting north; has expanded breeding range north to South Carolina recently.|
|Habitat||Cypress swamps (nesting colonies); marshes, ponds, lagoons. Forages mainly in fresh water, including shallow marshes, flooded farm fields, ponds, ditches. Favors falling water levels (when fish and other prey likely to be more concentrated in remaining pools). Nests mainly in stands of tall cypress, also sometimes in mangroves, dead trees in flooded impoundments.|
Forages mainly by wading in shallow water with head down, bill in water and partly open; quickly snaps bill shut when it makes contact with prey. Can locate prey by touch or sight.
3-4, sometimes 2-5. Whitish. Incubation is by both sexes, 28-32 days. Young: Fed by both parents. During first 5 weeks or so, one parent usually guards young; unguarded nests may be attacked by unmated storks wandering through colony. Young may make short flights at about 8 weeks, but return to nest to be fed and to sleep until about 11 weeks old.
Fed by both parents. During first 5 weeks or so, one parent usually guards young; unguarded nests may be attacked by unmated storks wandering through colony. Young may make short flights at about 8 weeks, but return to nest to be fed and to sleep until about 11 weeks old.
Mostly fish. Eats a wide variety of fish, especially minnows, killifish, mullet. Also crayfish, crabs, aquatic insects, snakes, baby alligators, small turtles, frogs, rodents, some seeds and other plant material.
Breeds in colonies. Nests in winter and spring in Florida, where water levels (because of their impact on food supply) may dictate timing. In some years, may not attempt to nest at all. Nest site depends on colony location; may be 10-15' above water in mangroves, 80' or higher in cypress, usually well out on horizontal limb. Nest is flimsy platform of sticks, lined with twigs and leaves; male brings most materials, female may do most of building. Some sticks added to nest even after young hatch.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Not strictly migratory, but has a regular northward dispersal after nesting. Florida birds wander well north in eastern states; flocks of birds from eastern Mexico occur along Texas coast in summer; birds from western Mexico appear in summer at Salton Sea and elsewhere in southwest.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsDull croak. Usually silent except around nest. Young make clattering noises with their bills.
Learn more about this sound collection.