Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Bird of the Week: January 18: Swallow-tailed Kite

Every mid-February, I am greeted by one of my favorite birds. Swallow-tailed kites spend the fall and winter in South America before migrating back to the United States where they are found only in the southeast with most of them in Florida.
These graceful flyers are aerial hawkers that consume insects and small animals like snakes, lizards, frogs, and even small birds. I am always amazed to see one skim the branches of a tree and come away with a lizard or some other prey in its talons. They form monogamous pairs and build nests out of small sticks woven with Spanish moss. They prefer tall cypress or pines but due to habitat loss are often forced to use the flimsy branches of the invasive Australian pine tree. Because of the flimsiness, nests are susceptible to falling in high winds. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 24-28 days (but mama does most of it!). The semialtricial young will then be fed by both parents and stay in the nest for around 36-42 days.They are easily identified in flight by their black upperparts and contrasting white head and underparts as well as their forked tail which opens and closes like scissors as they swoop to and fro. Their call is also distinct, and they keep me company throughout the summer with their cries and aerial acrobatics. Before they migrate south, they will often gather in large communal roosts and then one day they are gone, off to South America.

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