Carlton first moved east to a large foraging aggregation and roost site on the western edge of Lake Okeechobee in Glades County, Florida, on 7 July. After 28 days, he flew 25 miles south to another core roosting area for an additional six days, feeding on insects and adding further to his fat reserves. His migratory restlessness got the best of him on 10 August, when he flew to the westernmost Everglades for one last night in the United States. The next day, he crossed the Straits of Florida for Cuba and continued west over land before striking out over the ocean once again from the narrow tip of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula. After 400 miles over the Gulf of Mexico, Carlton arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula on 13 August. A week later, Carlton is still resting and feeding on the Yucatan, the only major stopover point for the U. S. breeding population on its 5,000 mile southbound migration.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Monday, August 15, 2016
|Mark Danaher of Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge with Gina Kent of Avian Research and Conservation Institute as she places a hood on a Swallow-tailed Kite to calm the bird prior to radio-tagging. Photo by Kevin Godsea, USFWS
Panther spent his pre-migratory preparation time ranging throughout the Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee drainages, as far north as southernmost North Carolina, at least 660 miles from his FPNWR nest territory! Swallow-tailed Kites often make these long-distance moves after nesting and prior to southbound migration, probably to find good foraging areas to fatten up on insects, but also to explore the larger U. S. range of their species while they can, learning where other kites nest, feed, and roost together as they get ready for their long journey to South America.
|Adult Swallow-tailed Kite flying over the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Mark Danaher, USFWS
After 17 days over the beautiful coastal lowlands of South Carolina, Panther began flying south. Along the way, he spent his nights roosting in the swampy flood-plain forests of the region’s major rivers, including the Savannah, Altamaha, and St. Mary’s. He also hunted some of Florida’s most beautiful and biologically-diverse conservation lands - Pinhook Swamp, San Felasco Hammock, Green Swamp, Corkscrew Swamp, Picayune Strand, Fakahatchee Strand, and Ten Thousand Islands.
Panther left Florida on 22 July, crossing the shoreline just east of Marco Island. Flying nonstop (how else?) across 490 miles of open ocean – 490 miles! - he reached the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula on the evening of 23 July, a flight as speedy and true as it was perilous. After resting and feeding in the area for a week, he took up a southerly heading, moving steadily through the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Belize, and Honduras before reaching the Caribbean shore of eastern Nicaragua. In the 56 days since he left his family’s nest site, Panther traversed a total of at least 2,600 miles (measured in a succession of straight-line segments). Half of these miles were devoted to his round-trip excursion to southern North Carolina, before he finally began his actual southbound migration from his Big Cypress breeding territory.
Other tracked kites are following Panther’s lead. We love sharing their stories with you, and hope you enjoy knowing that your support is what makes this research possible.
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Swallow-tailed Kites on the move: Introducing The Class of 2016 and the first southbound movements of the season
Panther was tagged on 8 June at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County, Florida. Many thanks to The Friends of Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the Refuge staff for their monetary and logistical support, which made this possible. After completing his nesting duties, Panther made some incredible pre-migratory moves, which we will share in our next blog.
Sawgrass was tagged on 13 June at Sawgrass Lake Park in Pinellas County, Florida. We have great support and interest from the St. Petersburg Audubon Society, which has started a Raptors on the Move education program with which teachers and students can apply the movement data from Sawgrass to any lesson. We will have more details on Sawgrass’s movements soon.
Carlton was tagged on 14 June at the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida. The fantastic staff, especially Debbie Blanco, and supporting biologists at the Reserve were instrumental not only in finding nesting Swallow-tailed Kites on the property, but also by helping us fundraise with the local citizen conservation organizations. We are grateful for the financial support of the Venice Area Audubon Society, Sarasota Audubon Society, Peace River Audubon Society, and The Friends of Sarasota County Parks.
The four previously-tagged Swallow-tailed Kites we are tracking have completed the nesting season. All four attempted to nest, and all except Lacombe (in Louisiana) were successful, raising two chicks each. MIA and Bullfrog re-used their 2015 nests, while Palmetto, in South Carolina, had moved to a new area, 4.5 miles north, after her mate, the tagged male Bluff, and young were killed by a predator near their 2015 nest.
Lacombe and MIA are still on their summer ranges. Palmetto has spent her pre-migration time in Georgia, first along the Savannah River and recently on the Altamaha River, as she has done in the past.
Bullfrog, the real mover, already is on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula! She spent some pre-migration prep time in Glades, Hendry and Manatee Counties. On 25 July, she flew at noon from Marco Island and arrived just south of Cancun, Mexico, 30 hours later.
|Movements of 7 GPS-tracked Swallow-tailed Kites from 15 to 27 July 2016 showing their tagging location and the start of fall migration.