Snail kite

COMMON NAME: Snail kiteSnail Kite

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Rostrhamus sociabilis

The snail kite has a body length of 16-18 inches, nearly a four-foot wingspan, and weighs 12-14 ounces. The plumage of the snail kite shows sexual dimorphism. The male is solidly blue-black and the female is streaked brown with white on her face.

Found in Florida, a few of the Caribbean Islands, Central America, and South America. Its range is limited to marshy areas that contain specific types of snails.

Tropical and subtropical lowland swamps and marshes with scant vegetation

Snail kites nest in colonies in trees. The nest is built of sticks on a thin branch. The female lays two to four eggs that are incubated by both parents for 26–28 days. The young kites fledge at six or seven weeks. Snail kites may have more than one clutch in a season and become sexually mature in less than a year. The female snail kite sometimes deserts the male, leaving him to finish raising the nestlings while she searches for a new mate to raise a second clutch of eggs.

The snail kite is one of the most specialized feeders of any bird of prey. Their beaks are specially adapted to extract aquatic snails from their shells. They will also eat fresh-water crabs, turtles, and small rodents if snails are not available. Snail kites hunt from a perch or by flying low over suitable habitat looking for snails.

With populations increasing in its range, the snail kite is not afforded any special conservation status.