You eat them snails?
Escargot anyone? I recently returned from several sojourns to South Florida to photograph a very illusive and not often seen hawk that loves to dine primarily on snails. This hawk feeds almost exclusively on apple snails and has a beak especially adapted for extracting the meat of the snail. Unfortunately, the number of the American Apple Snails is rapidly diminishing due to its low tolerance for pollution. Fortunately for the Snail Kite, some other exotic apple snail species have begun to replace the American variety.
Per the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the Snail Kite is widespread and common in Latin America (several million), but in the US, which has about 1% or less of the population, it is listed as endangered both Federally and in Florida, largely due to its small population and its extreme habitat specialization. Found only in Southern Florida this striking bird can be spotted in marshland habitats supporting populations of apple snails. The male is dark grey-to-brown with a white stripe across the back of the tail while females are more mottled brown and white. The male sports a very distinctive orange colored area on the base of the beak and feet. The Snail Kite soars over the lily pads and marshes looking for its favorite food. When it spots its prey it quickly dives down and grabs it with its claws, carrying it back to a perch. Here it extracts the meat of the snail with a long curved hooked beak and devours the escargot in a big gulp. Then it lifts off in search of another and another.
Although I did not capture my dream shot of this bird I did indeed get to observe them closely with some friends and got some wonderful captures of its unique feeding style and favorite meal. I will think of them the next time I dine on fine escargot in southern France. Blessings. Harry