While driving around the uMkhuze Game Reserve one afternoon in March, we happened upon a seemingly insatiable Woolly-Necked Stork catching juvenile catfish in a drying mudpool. We watched the stork gorge itself on one fish after another, amazed at the ease with which it could grab its slippery, squirming quarry from the “all you can eat buffet table”, until there was no more splashing from the pool at his approach…
Ciconia microscelis (episcopus)
Woolly-necked Storks (weight ∼ 1.8kg) inhabit a wide range of wetland habitats, ranging from the banks of rivers, streams, lakes, dams and ponds to estuaries and mangrove swamps, where they subsist on a diet of frogs, fish, crabs, insects, molluscs and worms. They are normally seen singly or in pairs, although they will at times congregate in large flocks when migrating or at favourite roosting sites. Woolly-necked Storks breed in solitary pairs, mostly at the end of the dry season, in nests built of sticks in tall trees, often over water and regularly used by the same pair year after year.
The Woolly-necked Stork has a wide distribution across Africa and with a stable population is considered of least conservation concern by the IUCN. In South Africa they are considered near-threatened, being found only in the Lowveld of Limpopo and Mpumalanga (where around 80 occur in the Kruger National Park) and the north of Kwazulu-Natal (where Umlalazi Nature Reserve is an excellent location to go looking for them)