male Florida Snail Kite in freshwater marsh
Photo credit: FFWS
Snail Kite call graciously gifted by Manuel Grosselet
Endangered Birds of Florida
The Florida Snail Kite
To begin: what is a Bird?
A Bird is a warm blooded,
bipedal (two legs)
vertebrate (has a backbone)
bills and wings and most can
It lays eggs to reproduce and
many theories have
it classified as a direct
descendant of Dinosaurs,
dating back to the Jurassic
The Endangered Florida Snail Kite, also known as the
is the most endangered raptor in the United States.
The thoughtless drainage of their Ancestral Habitat, Lake
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
but the draining of the lake and severe drought conditions
have reduced their
numbers once again to the point where they have nearly
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
the apple snail, is in a tug of war between FWS and local
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
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
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
both birds have white at the base of their tails.
Both sexes have red eyes, but their young have
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:
Environment News Service
Florida Water Management helping Kites
Conserves Land for Birds
Endangered Species - Snail Kite
Walking with the Alligators
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Educating Visitors About Florida's Wildlife July 29, 2008
Last edited November 8, 2020
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