Thursday, August 6, 2020

Palm Beach County Kites: A rewarding conservation collaboration

We are delighted to be partnering with the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society and Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) on Swallow-tailed Kite remote tracking research. We are now tracking four Swallow-tailed Kites from breeding locations within the County’s ERM properties discovered by ERM staff, who also joined us on the capture and tagging process. Zoo staff also assisted in tagging the kites, with the help of the Zoo’s animal ambassador “Hino”, a Great Horned Owl trained for educational programs. Likewise, the Avian Reconditioning Center (ARC) contributed the use of their Great Horned Owl “Nonamé” along with that of the owl’s handler, Nicole Jones. 

Callie Coxon of the Palm Beach Zoo holds a Swallow-tailed Kite fitted with a GPS-transmitter ready for release on Palm Beach County ERM lands.

As most kites do after their nest duties are over, the newly tagged adults, moved to areas where they could gorge on abundant insect food and acquire the necessary fat to prepare for their migration to South America. In the process, many of the kites we tag find each other at communal roost sites and foraging aggregations across the southeastern U.S. before beginning their southbound migration.

Two of our Palm Beach Kites, PBC-ERM Male and Jeaga 2, have joined flocks of kites that have frequented foraging areas throughout Palm Beach County. Jeaga 1 has circled west around Lake Okeechobee and is now using agriculture areas in St. Lucie County. Jeaga 3 has traveled the farthest, making a day trip from a core area between Lake Apopka and Palatka, Florida, to the Altamaha River of southeastern Georgia. These birds could leave Florida any day now. We are excited to see where their journeys take them, where they will eventually winter in South America, and what new threats may have emerged there and along the way.

July 2020 locations of four Swallow-tailed Kites tagged in Palm Beach County, FL by ARCI
July 2020 locations of four Swallow-tailed Kites tagged in Palm Beach County, FL by ARCI

Some sights from this collaborative effort can be viewed in this photo journal:

Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, in conjunction with long-time Zoo sponsor Florida Power & Light Company, have generously provided funding for the solar-powered GSM-GPS transmitters needed to continue this vital conservation effort.