A male Florida Snail Kite
A male Florida Snail Kite in freshwater marsh
Photo credit: FFWS
Snail Kite call graciously gifted by Manuel Grosselet


The Endangered Birds of Florida



The Florida Snail Kite
Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus


To begin: what is a Bird?

A Bird is a warm blooded, bipedal (two legs)

vertebrate (has a backbone) with feathers,

bills and wings and most can fly.

It lays eggs to reproduce and many theories have

it classified as a direct descendant of Dinosaurs,

dating back to the Jurassic period.

The Endangered Florida Snail Kite, also known as the Everglades Kite,

is the most endangered raptor in the United States.

The thoughtless drainage of their Ancestral Habitat, Lake Okeechobee,

reduced them to the tragic numbers in the 1960's of 25.

Then with some help, they rebounded in the 1990's to about 700.

Recently the Kite's numbers had climbed to around 400 breeding pairs,

but the draining of the lake and severe drought conditions have reduced their

numbers once again to the point where they have nearly completely abandoned

Lake Okeechobee and moved further north into Lake Toho.


This move is not without new challenges however, the Hydrilla plant in Lake Toho,

the main food source for what has always been the Kite's staple food,

the apple snail, is in a tug of war between FWS and local boaters.

The boaters want the plant gone because it stalls the motors on their boats,

the FWS people say "not so fast," how about a little compromise here.

As if that were not enough of an issue, now their is a new problem in the Kite's future,

an Air Boat business wants to move into the Lake and run at least 20 tours a day.

This disastrous event will in all likelihood kill off not only the snails, but the snail kite along with it.

You can read more about this on my Google Blog:

The Snail Kite

Florida Snail Kite
A male Florida Snail Kite holding an apple snail
Photo credit: NPS


The Snail Kite weighs about 15 ounces and is between 14-18 inches long

and has a wingspan of nearly four feet.

The male kites are slate grey and the females are brown,

both birds have white at the base of their tails.

Both sexes have red eyes, but their young have brown eyes.

Females may abandon the male and her nest and

 go off to raise a new brood with a new mate.


This Endangered Bird of Prey has a beak designed to do

just one thing perfectly, to get a snail out of its shell.

The kite fly's low and slow over freshwater marshes until it sees its prey,

the apple snail, then it enters the water feet first, grasping the snail in its talons.


But the Ecosystem that these two have shared has

changed dramatically over the past decades and

the apple snail population is now in morbid decline.


Evolution has played a rather nasty trick on this bird,

because its very special beak is why it is now having

such a difficult time learning to adapt to other food.

Places to learn more:



Snail Kites


Environment News Service

South Florida Water Management helping Kites


Florida DEP

Florida Conserves Land for Birds



Snail Kite



Endangered Species - Snail Kite



Snail Kite



Project 2003

Snail Kite



Walking with the Alligators

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Educating Visitors About Florida's Wildlife July 29, 2008

Last edited January 18, 2023

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