|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.