Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Swallow-tailed Kite Migration: Heading North

Heading north

Five of our eight satellite-tracked birds have started heading north from their winter ranges in Brazil. This last leg of spring migration always is the fastest, driven perhaps by the urgency of regaining former nesting territories and mates in the southeastern U.S.

These are the five northbound kites with departure dates and northbound distances travelled thus far:

MIA, 20 January, 720 miles.
Day, 20 January, 1,000 miles.
Slidell, 26 January, 400 miles.
Suwannee, 28 January, 520 miles.
Pace, 28 January, 275 miles.

The 2014 northbound migration of the Swallow-tailed Kite begins. 
The first of the tagged birds began moving north on 20 January 2014. 
Three of the five northbound kites - Day, Suwannee, and Pace - had been using the same night roost in Brazil for at least the last month (along with Palmetto, still in Mato Grosso, Brazil). The tracking data indicate that Pace and Suwannee spent most of their first northbound day together before Suwannee shifted east to a parallel route. Day is in the lead, having already reached the state of Rondonia, Brazil.

In addition to Palmetto, Pearl MS and Gulf Hammock are still on their winter ranges in, respectively, Rondonia, Brazil and eastern Bolivia.

As we wait to see which bird will be first to reach its habitual breeding area in the U.S., we also are watching the weather. March of 2013 brought an unprecedented period of strong, nearly relentless northerly winds. Three of the 11 Swallow-tailed Kites we were tracking at that time apparently died after battling headwinds over the Gulf of Mexico for three to four days.