|Northbound migration of seven GPS/satellite-tracked Swallow-tailed Kites from 15 January to 1 March 2015. MIA and Day are the first to return safely to their US home range.|
MIA moved quickly and steadily ever since leaving his winter range in southern Brazil. By 22 February he was on the northern coast of Honduras and took a 9-hour overwater shortcut to Dangriga, Belize. Pausing only briefly, he continued north and on the morning of 25 February launched from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, committing to nearly 500 miles of open ocean. He covered the distance in 24 hours, making land on Florida’s coast just north of Sanibel Island. He crossed to the eastern part of the state, spending a night in Davie, Florida, before continuing south to his summer home range in southern Miami. On 3 March MIA was spotted bringing Spanish moss to his old nest.
Day launched seaward on the same day as MIA, however she initiated her crossing much farther south from the northern coast of Honduras. Holding a tight northward heading, she sped midway between the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba. Once through the Yucatan Channel, she turned abruptly to the northeast, setting her eyes on Florida’s southwestern coast. She completed her 830-mile overwater flight in an astounding 28 hours. Day reached the US just south of Sanibel Island, and over the course of 3 days, slowly made her way to her Daytona residence area.
We predict the next kite to make the over-water passage will be Gulf Hammock. Presently in Nicaragua, will she fly to Florida from northern Honduras, or will she stay over land until reaching the northern tip of the Yucatan? The strong, highly favorable southerly winds of the last week or so will turn into strong northerlies by midnight tonight (5 March). The circulation around this large high pressure system will gradually shift to the northeast and east, but winds will remain unfavorable for at least the next three days. This is bad news for Swallow-tailed Kites and birds of all species that are already out over the Gulf of Mexico and heading north. However, the large size of this system at least means that the headwinds are apparent to all the birds now staging on the northern coast of the Yucatan, thus discouraging them from beginning a northbound flight that very likely could be fatal.
Pace slowed his progress in the rich Amazon region of Brazil. He tarried for 10 days between 16 and 27 February. He is now 50 miles into Colombia.
The remaining three birds are still in Brazil and slowly moving north. The breeding pair of kites Palmetto (female) and Bluff (male) are 260 miles apart with Bluff in the lead. PearlMS, the last kite to leave the US and also the northern-most wintering kite, started north on 24 February, the day before MIA and Day crossed the Gulf to Florida. PearlMS is in Rondonia, Brazil.