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JUNE 2017 Bird of the Month – Everglades Snail Kite – GALLERY

June’s Bird of the Month is the Everglades Snail Kite, and here is the article in the May-June 2017 Kite written by Ben Kolstad.

June – Everglade Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) FE (Federally Endangered)

 The North American population of snail kites is restricted to peninsular Florida, although there is a South American population of this marsh resident species. As their common name suggests, their principal prey is snails; here in Florida, that’s the Florida apple snail (Pomacea paludosa). Since 1989 several introduced snail species have been documented in the Everglades, one of which—the channeled apple snail—appears to have the potential to outcompete the native apple snails on which these endangered kites depend as (almost) their sole source of food . Snail Kites have hooked bills, the better to extract the meat from their prey. One reason ecologists are worried about the introduced species of apple snail is the specialized adaptation of the kite to the Florida apple snail; the larger channeled apple snail is harder for the kites to carry and to eat. From the NPS website about this species: The bill is a distinguishing characteristic for field identification of adults as well as juveniles. Although sometimes confused with the northern harrier, the Snail Kite’s flight is slower and characterized by more wing flapping, and the head typically is tilted down to look for snails while in flight. Snail Kites do not plunge into the water to capture snails and never use the bill to capture prey. Rather, they use their feet to capture snails at or below the surface of the water. Locally, the best places to see this bird—larger brown females, smaller gray males—are at the ARM Loxahatchee NWR and Grassy Waters, west of West Palm Beach.

(Photographer’s please note that next month’s July 2017 Bird will be the Red Cockaded Woodpecker)