© Steve Matherly
This distinctive, black and white bird of prey winters in the lowlands of Brazil and returns to Florida each spring to nest. They can be seen, usually soaring overhead, throughout the state between March and August. Swallow-tailed Kites feed mainly on flying insects, and also small vertebrates including snakes, lizards and frogs. In late summer, large gatherings of this spectacular raptor can be found. One such gathering occurs at Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area in late summer and early fall where as many as 2,000 birds may gather before heading south for the winter. This graceful bird was chosen as the symbol for the Great Florida Birding Trail and it adorns the project’s highway signs around the state. The breeding range for the Swallow-tailed Kite once reached as far north as Minnesota and included 21 states. Today, most of the population is restricted to Florida, with small numbers in six additional southeastern states.
Recommended GFBWT sites:
- Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area: East Entrance and West Entrance
- Big Cypress National Preserve
For more information, including a range map and sound recording, visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds website.
They use diverse habitats, but nest in forests with tall trees, often near wetlands, and forage in adjacent, open areas.