Thursday, August 22, 2019

16 GPS-tracked Swallow-tailed Kites Begin Their 2019 Migration to South America

Many of the 16 kites ARCI is currently tracking have already left the US on a 5,000-mile trip to wintering destinations in South America. In last week’s blog, we described the importance of tracking Swallow-tailed Kites with GPS-equipped tracking devices, and introduced you to the 5 adults tagged during the 2019 nesting season.

Now, we would like you to meet the rest of the fleet and track their migration with us. Following is a list of the 16 birds and their supporters, without whom this study would not be possible.

From earliest to most recently tagged:

Sawgrass is a female tagged in 2016 at the Sawgrass Lake Park in Pinellas Co., Florida, with financial support from the St. Petersburg Audubon Society (SPAS). A big thanks to their Raptors on the Move program.

Babcock is a female tagged in 2017 on the Babcock Ranch Wildlife Management Area in Charlotte, Co., Florida. We thank conservation photographer, Carlton Ward Jr., for helping us gain permission and access for this capture.

Sarasota, a male, was captured and tagged in 2017 on the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve in Sarasota Co., Florida. Funding was granted from Sarasota Audubon Society, Peace River Audubon Society, Venice Area Audubon Society, and the Friends of the Carlton Reserve.

Apopka, a male, is a rehabilitated kite we tagged in 2017 and released at the Lake Apopka Restoration Area in Orange Co., Florida, with the assistance of the Avian Reconditioning Center and additional care from the Audubon Bird of Prey Center. Organizational funding (with special thanks) included challenge and matching donations from: The City of Apopka (Mayor Joe Kilsheimer); Halifax Audubon Society (David Hartgrove); Oklawaha Audubon (Stacy Kelly); Seminole County Audubon (Lewis Gray, Margaret Terwilliger, and Sarah Donlan); Tampa Bay Raptor Rescue (Barbara Walker); Clearwater Audubon Society; and West Volusia Audubon Society. For their personal contributions, we thank Stephen Kintner, Deborah Green, Janet Marks, Eileen Tramontana, Sandie Selman, Rebecca Grimm, and Alyssa Karnitz.

Wilson, tagged in 2017, is the second of two males tagged on Palmetto Bluff Conservancy land in Bluffton Co., South Carolina, with funding from the Friends of the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy.

Pritchard, tagged in 2018, is the other male kite we are tracking from Palmetto Bluff Conservancy land in Bluffton Co., South Carolina.  He was tagged in 2018 with funding from the Friends of the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy.

OK (Okaloacoochee) is a female kite tagged in 2018 on the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier Co., Florida.  Funding was provided by the Caloosa Bird Club and the Friends of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

JAX is a female tagged in 2018 in northeastern Jacksonville, Duval Co., Florida. This bird’s telemetry costs were covered by a generous contribution from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Suwannee is a male from the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge in Dixie Co., Florida. We are grateful to the Friends of the Lower Suwannee NWR and the National Audubon Society for providing funding. This kite will be featured in a joint bioGraphic and National Audubon online article later this month, with photos from conservation photographer, Mac Stone.

Sanibel is a male from Sanibel Island in Lee Co., Florida. The Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society is graciously covering Sanibel’s telemetry expenses.

PBC-ERM Male and PBC-ERM Female were both tagged in Palm Beach Co., Florida on Environmental Resource Management county property, with funding from the Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society.

Four Swallow-tailed Kites were tagged by our colleague, Dr. Jennifer Coulson, with Orleans Audubon Society funds:

Lacombe is a male tagged in 2015 near Lacombe, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. He has been tracked the longest of the 16 tagged kites.

Bayou Vincent is a female from St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, that was tagged in 2018.

Hobolochitto Creek is a male tagged in 2018 near its namesake in Pearl River Co., Mississippi.

Ponchitolawa is a male tagged in 2019 near its namesake creek in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.

Where are they now?

As of 19 August 2019, 11 of our tracked Swallow-tailed Kites had already left the U.S.  Their current positions are listed below, beginning with the southernmost bird.

Babcock was the first to leave Florida, in mid-July. She has crossed the Andes Mountains and is entering the Amazon Basin of Colombia. Bayou Vincent, OK, and PBC-ERM Female are in Panama and will soon cross into Colombia.

Farther north, Sanibel is hugging the Nicaraguan Coast and Lacombe is trailing behind in Guatemala.

There is a stopover party in the Yucatan Peninsula where JAX, Suwannee, Sarasota, PBC-ERM Male, and Sawgrass are lingering to rest and replenish after crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

Hobolochitto Creek and Ponchitolawa had begun migrating southward across the Gulf of Mexico only to be forced by headwinds back to the U.S. coastlines of Texas and Florida, respectively.

Apopka has been moving among a few communal roost sites in central Florida. Wilson and Pritchard remain near their respective summer ranges in South Carolina.

We can’t wait to see where these birds go.  Thanks for following along with us!