Thursday, August 25, 2016

Carlton the Swallow-tailed Kite takes a classic migratory course

One of the three kites GPS-tagged this summer includes an adult male (Carlton) captured 14 June 2016 on the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida, the first Swallow-tailed Kite tagged in this part of the state. The dedicated staff of the Reserve, especially Debbie Blanco and supporting biologists, were instrumental not only in finding nesting Swallow-tailed Kites, but also by seeking the help of local conservation organizations to cover ARCI’s costs for the transmitter, data acquisition, and the work involved. The Venice Area Audubon Society immediately and very generously rose to the challenge, gradually leading Sarasota Audubon Society, Peace River Audubon Society, and The Friends of Sarasota County Parks to join the cause. Thanks to their help, the tagging process began just in time to deploy a transmitter on one of the Reserve’s nesting kites before the birds departed the area on their southbound journey. 

Avian Research and Conservation Institute staff Dr. Ken Meyer, Amanda Powell, Gina Kent, and Trapper the Great Horned Owl safely handle a recently captured Swallow-tailed Kite. Trapper has worked with ARCI for over 16 years and volunteers from the Avian Reconditioning Center, her permanent home. Photo by Mac Stone.

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. 

Swallow-tailed Kite "Carlton's" track from his tagging location in the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve in Sarasota County, Florida through his pre-migratory movements and the start of his southbound migration into the Yucatan Peninsula.

Everyone is excited about watching the stories of Carlton and the other tagged Swallow-tailed Kites unfold as each bird moves through the fascinating annual cycle of this spectacular species.