Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Locations of eight Swallow-tailed Kites on 16 June 2014

We have much to share with you about Swallow-tailed Kites and this year’s nesting season. This also is a good time to ask if you would become part of our tracking efforts by making a one-time donation, or by pledging to become a sustainer of our “Keep on Trackin'” program for as little as $10 a month. We learn so much every day from our satellite telemetry studies of Swallow-tailed Kites and the six other species we are presently tracking. At $100 per bird each month, the costs add up quickly for the 33 birds now transmitting (grant funds cover only the first one to two years). 

Locations for eight satellite-tagged Swallow-tailed Kites  on 16 June 2014

In our last Swallow-tailed Kite blog, we reported that all seven tagged kites made it back to their prior summer/breeding territories. All but one nested this year. The exception was Suwannee in Dixie Co, FL, who stayed within a tight area in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge until we suddenly lost her signal on 2 April. Although we have not been able to locate any remains, experience suggests Suwannee died, perhaps due to predation, while in her night roost.

Gulf Hammock nested in Levy Co, FL, and produced one nestling that was depredated at about three weeks old. Very soon after, a pair of Mississippi Kites took over the abandoned nest and produced eggs. It is unlikely that the Swallow-tailed Kite nestling was killed by one of the Mississippi Kites. We’ll keep monitoring this nest to determine its fate.

Pace in south Jacksonville, Day of Daytona Beach, Pearl MS in Mississippi, and Palmetto in South Carolina will all have fledged nestlings by this week. MIA in Miami has young nestlings in what may be a second nesting attempt after an early failure (we do not know if his present mate is the same as his first). His offspring should fledge by early July. Re-nesting is very rare for Swallow-tailed Kites, which have a very short breeding season sandwiched between two 5,000 mile migrations. This case is noteworthy because we have never seen it at the same nest within the same season.

Our best news is the deployment of an additional satellite/GPS device on a male Swallow-tailed Kite in Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina. This is particularly exciting because Bluff, a male, is the mate of Palmetto, which we tagged at the same site in 2011. 

Movements of Palmetto and Bluff from 28 May 2014 to 16 June 2014

We are now obtaining valuable data on this breeding pair of Swallow-tailed Kites, providing an opportunity to learn how the nest-season activities, migrations, and wintering destinations of these mates compare. Already, we can see the contrasting movements and behaviors of these adults in their respective parental roles (e.g., extended foraging trips for the male, close nest guarding by the female). 

The financial and logistical support of the Friends of the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy and the Conservancy staff (Jay Walea and Charlie Bales), and the field assistance of Mike and Shane Rahn of Walcam Land Group, were instrumental in tagging this kite. We are grateful for all their contributions to this collaborative project, and excited that this pair of kites makes Palmetto Bluff their home.