Thursday, July 14, 2016

The 2016 Swallow-tailed Kite count is here!

The Avian Research and Conservation Institute invites you to participate in Florida’s Swallow-tailed Kite population monitoring surveys for 2016.

ARCI’s synchronized surveys, which began in their present form 27 years ago – in 1989 – have become a very important tool for monitoring trends in the U. S. population. We systematically photograph roosts on the same dates in late July, the period when numbers have consistently reached their peak.

Every year since 1989, during a 10-day window in late July, ARCI has conducted systematic aerial surveys at 12 large Swallow-tailed Kite pre-migration roosts. These roosts, of up to 4,000 birds, provide an extremely rare and valuable opportunity for long-term population monitoring of this imperiled species.

We know that of all the kites that can be counted across 7 southeastern states at this time, 90% are roosting in Florida. However, we also know we are missing kites when we count the birds in the 12 large roosts.

How many we are missing? This is where your help is so vitally important. You can help us increase the accuracy with which we are able to estimate the size of the entire U.S. population.

Last year, for the first time, we asked you to help us with the count. And you did! Your submissions, totaling 991 birds, increased our peak count by 5%. This was a very impressive contribution!

At this time of year, Swallow-tailed Kites are gathering in foraging aggregations and communal night roosts, where they gain behavioral information from each other that helps them find swarms of insects and other prey to put on weight rapidly and prepare themselves for migration. 

This year, for the second time, we want to synchronize public sighting reports with Florida’s systematic aerial surveys on the 4 most important days.

Participation is easy. Just report the date, time, location and number of Swallow-tailed Kites and what they were doing when you saw them on these four days:

19 July
22 July
25 July
28 July

Enter your data in the online form. The form is responsive to your smart device, so you can even report from the field!

We look forward to hearing about your Swallow-tailed Kite sightings and including them in this Florida-wide synchronized population survey.

Special thanks to these organizations and individuals for their financial and in-kind support: The Florida Aquarium, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, Natural Encounters, Inc., St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Mac Stone, Joe DiRodio, Char Gregg