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Snail Kite | by saddleguy
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Snail Kite

This is a snail kite I took an image of in FL. There are only an estimated 2000 of these left....endangered species in FL!

Sorry it's a soft image, he was flying right at me and I needed to think quick.

 

From Wikipedia:

The Snail Kite breeds in tropical South America, the Caribbean, and central and southern Florida in the United States. It is resident all-year in most of its range, but the southernmost population migrates north in winter and the Caribbean birds disperse widely outside the breeding season.

 

The Snail Kite is a locally endangered species in the Florida Everglades, with a population of less than 400 breeding pairs. Research has demonstrated [2] that water-level control in the Everglades is depleting the population of apple snails. However, this species is not generally threatened over its extensive range.

 

In fact, it might be locally increasing in numbers, such as in Central America. In El Salvador, it was first recorded in 1996. Since then, it has been regularly sighted, including immature birds, suggesting a resident breeding population might already exist in that country. On the other hand, most records are outside the breeding season, more indicative of post-breeding dispersal. In El Salvador, the species can be observed during the winter months at Embalse Cerrón Grande, Laguna El Jocotal, and especially Lago de Güija. Pomacea flagellata apple snails were propagated in El Salvador between 1982 and 1986 as food for fish stocks, and it seems that the widespread presence of high numbers of these snails has not gone unnoticed by the Snail Kite.[3]

 

This is a gregarious bird of freshwater wetlands, forming large winter roosts. Its diet consists almost exclusively of apple snails.

 

Snail Kites have been observed eating other prey items in Florida, including crayfish in the genus Procambarus and Black Crappie. It is believed that Snail Kites turn to these alternatives only when apple snails become scarce, such as during drought,[4] but further study is needed. On 14 May 2007, a birdwatcher photographed a Snail Kite feeding at a Red Swamp Crayfish farm in Clarendon County, South Carolina.[5][6]

 

It nests in a bush or on the ground, laying 3–4 eggs.

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Taken on February 1, 2011