Sunday, August 25, 2019

Swallow-tailed Kite migration and fires in Brazil

Many fans of Swallow-tailed Kites and followers of our tacking studies have expressed concerns about the threats posed to southbound migrant kites by the thousands of deliberately set fires raging unchecked in the Brazilian Amazon. The fires are on the kite’s migration route, which means individual kites are exposed to the fires' impacts for a limited in time. However, based on our research, we know the kites do linger a bit in the Basin, before completing their journey to their winter ranges south of the affected region. Most likely this lingering is to take advantage of foraging opportunities, although we do not have on-the-ground confirmation of this.
Swallow-tailed Kites frequently forage over landscape fires, though the long-term effects of the fires on their forage quality is not known. These fires intentionally set in rainforests that would not normally burn represent another human-caused ecological crisis, which in this case will contribute to the much larger planetary catastrophe of climate change. It is fortunate that ARCI has 23 years of satellite and cell-phone telemetry data for Swallow-tailed Kites so we will be able to compare this year’s tracking data from 16 tagged adults with past years. As we follow the news about the Amazon fires, we will keep you informed of kite movements in our frequent migration blogs posted here.