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

This water lily and pads hosts a diminishing population of apple snails in the southern marshes of Florida

A discarded apple snail shell left by a feeding Snail Kite..you really eat them things? 

This species of apple snail eggs with its pink hue is the Island Apple Snail.  It is replacing the diminishing American Apple Snail whose eggs are more grayish in color. 

This species of apple snail eggs with its pink hue is the Island Apple Snail.  It is replacing the diminishing American Apple Snail whose eggs are more grayish in color. 

The last thing the apple snail saw.  A male Snail Kite hunting for the apple snail..

Female Snail Kite bringing back an apple snail for lunch...

The male Snail Kite is dark grey-to-brown with orange feet and facial area. It has a white stripe on tail and back.

Male Snail Kite hovers over the marsh looking for snails.

Snail Kite male bringing in nesting material

Male Snail Kite Profile.  Note the curved beak which is especially adept at removing snail meat

Male Snail Kite bringing in snails...

Female Snail Kite in flight

Maie Snail Kite in flight in early morning light

Female Snail Kite landing on perch

Female Snail Kite with snail on perch...Photo by and with permission of Michael Tapes

Escargot anyone?

Limpkin landing...they also love snails, especially stealing them from the Kites..

Boat-tailed Grackles also love to steal the Snail Kites morsels..

Grackle tries to steal a snail...Photo by and with permission of Michael Tapes

The "rare" White Ibis also compete for the snails..

Male Snail Kite profile..

Female Snail Kite lifts off to hunt for more delicious escargot..

email: selsorhd@me.com

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