Saturday, August 6, 2016

Swallow-tailed Kites on the move: Introducing The Class of 2016 and the first southbound movements of the season

It’s been a great summer for ARCI and the satellite-tagged birds we are following. We have so much to share, but we will take it one blog at a time so we can give you lots of details. The first news is that we successfully deployed three new GPS-equipped transmitters on Swallow-tailed Kites in Florida in June, bringing our total sample of tracked birds to seven, including Lacombe, the kite tagged in Louisiana by our long-time colleague and friend, Dr. Jennifer Coulson. First, we will tell you about the three newly-tagged kites.

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.