Spring time flowers are blooming. Azure skies and puffy clouds fill the morning scene. I head south with some friends for another adventure to capture photos of one of Florida’s endangered species, the Snail Kite. An Airboat convention was meeting at the same time during one of the outings unfortunately. It got pretty noisy with 50+ airboats zipping all over the place.
Unless you live in Florida or Central America you probably have never seen or heard of the Snail Kite. This endangered raptor feeds only on the apple snail (or an invasive apple snail variety) found in central and southern Florida lakes and marshes. In 2011 there were only an estimated 925 snail kites in Florida. What is unique on this bird is the sharp curved beak that it uses to dig out the snail meat from the shells. It glides over the lakes and marshes looking for snails that come to the surface. The Kites are distinguished with a white stripe across the tail and broad wings. The mature males are slate gray in color while the females are mottled brown with some white facial feathers. Adult snail kites have red eyes, juveniles have brown eyes.
Picking up a snail, the Kite will head for a branch or marsh shrub to sit and feed. It will often transfer the snail while in flight from the feet to the beak prior to landing. This is one of my most sought after flight shots. I call it "Escargot on the go". Between the hoards of midge flies and harassing Boat-tailed Grackles that try to steal the snails, the Snail Kite pair feed their fledglings from sun up to sun down, one snail at a time (I.E. at a "Snail Kites" pace).
Hope you enjoy these glimpses into the life of these unique raptors. With dwindling food supplies and habitat, they may not be around much longer. Approaching that time of life myself where nothing is taken for granted and each day is a blessing. And on this special day please remember those who gave their all..