The Snail Kite--A Bird In Danger

Bird in danger - the Snail Kite, or Everglade Kite, is on the endangered species list. It lives in the Florida Everglades, and its only known enemy is man.

An endangered species is one that is in immediate danger of extinction unless it or its habitat is completely protected. One such species is the Everglade Kite, or Snail Kite. The Snail Kite's only known enemy is man.

The Kite lives in the Everglades of Florida, and throughout central and south Florida. Because of its limited diet, the numbers of birds go down rapidly when its habitat is altered or destroyed. The Snail Kite eats mainly apple snails, and requires open water to find their food easily.

Marsh draining, hunting by farmers who believe them pests, and drought all play a role in its declining numbers. In 1972, there were only 65 birds left. When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, the Snail Kite went on the list.

The preservation of this species is working, if slowly. In 1997, Snail Kite population increased to 995 birds.

The Snail Kite is a bird of prey, or raptor. All raptors have some features in common. Raptors need excellent eyesight for spotting their prey. They look independently out of each eye to see sideways, and they use both eyes to see straight ahead.

Raptors use their feet to snatch up their prey, and each foot has four toes with long, curving claws called talons. Raptors also have sharp beaks. The Snail Kite's beak is long, curved, and just the right shape for extracting snails from their shells.

Raptors are also impressive fliers. When a male Kite wants to show off to attract a mate, he swoops, glides, and dives in the air. Then he brings the female Kite food or nesting material.

The Snail Kite lays two to four eggs every spring. They sometimes raise two sets of young per year. This is one of the reasons for the continuous growth in the numbers of birds.

Another explanation for the swelling numbers of Snail Kites is a strategy that conservationists use. By setting aside marshy land that is just right to help apple snail numbers multiply, they help the Everglade Kite by extension. When there are more apple snails, there are more Everglade Kites. There are also several Wildlife Refuges in Florida that allows the Kite to nest undisturbed.

Water conservation plays an enormous role in the survival of the Snail Kite. The Everglades are shrinking due to increased water demands. The increased demand for water is because of the enlarging population in Florida.

The quality and quantity of the water in the Everglades is important to the Kite's well being. The more efficiently those water resources are managed, the easier it is for Snail Kites to multiply.

Like many wild animals today, Snail Kites are in jeopardy because of changes in, or shrinking of, their environment. Snail Kites have recuperated to an astounding degree. But their numbers have still not sufficiently risen. Conservationists can't mark them off of the Endangered Species list yet.

The protective role that society plays in the Snail Kite's life is not yet over, for there are still problems in this magnificent bird's recovery. The Snail Kite must be protected, so that it is still around in the generations to come.

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