Photo Credit: Mike Tracy
Snail kites inhabit marsh habitats in both the Everglades of south Florida and shorelines of lakes in central Florida. They frequently can be seen slowly flying along the shorelines seeking their primary food item, the apple snail. At other times, you may see a kite perched on a clump of cattail or in a willow tree. During droughts, kites may disperse from their traditional range in the Everglades and larger lakes from Lake Okeechobee north to Lake Tohopekaliga and show up at smaller lakes and marshes throughout south and central Florida. Snail kites nest during February to August in Florida. During the nonbreeding season, kites may form large communal roosts in both cattail and willow stands where they can be seen flying into the site 1-2 hours before sunset.
It is along the margins of Lakes Okeechobee, Kissimmee and Tohopekaliga where most boaters or anglers may see a snail kite and where kites are most vulnerable to human disturbance.
Here's what you can do:
Stay outside of areas posted with signs at all times. We recommend a buffer distance of about 145 yards from nests. If you see kites fly up and act agitated (quick wing flapping, flying overhead and not flying off in a slow speed) then you may be near a kite nest. Leave the area immediately to allow the parent birds to return to the nest. Nests can be located in dense cattail or bulrush, or trees such as willow. Disturbance that causes parents to flush from their nests can result in nest abandonment, egg/nestling deaths due to sun exposure, or predation by fish crows that quickly fly in and steal the eggs or young nestlings.
Learn more about snail kites
Download this brochure, "The Snail Kite"
Or visit these links