Swallow-tailed kites are easily recognizable with their black and white plumage and deeply forked tails. Males and females are similar in appearance, size and weight. An average swallow-tailed kite’s body measures 20 to 27 inches and weighs 11 to 21 ounces. This kite’s impressive wingspan measures 3.7 to 4.5 feet.
Swallow-tailed kites are migratory raptors. In the spring, it travels from Central and South America to Florida to breed. Wetland forests are the kite’s preferred nesting grounds. Kites build nests in loblolly pine or bald cypress trees. Their diet includes insects and small animals, including frogs, anoles and snakes.
Historically, kites could be found as far north as Minnesota. In the U.S., kites are found mostly in Florida with small numbers in other southeastern states. Swallow-tailed kites are not listed as endangered or threatened by the federal government. The species’ greatest threat is habitat destruction. The future of swallow-tailed kites depends on the protection of lowland forests throughout its breeding range.
Read the full February 2020 SECO News online.