Date: December 10, 2015
Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
The endangered snail kite's affinity for its birthplace can come back to haunt the bird, leaving it in more peril, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study.
Snail kites are important for at least two reasons: Bird enthusiasts flock to see them in their natural habitat, so they're a bit of a tourist magnet. Secondly, wildlife managers use the snail kite as a barometer for conservation actions to preserve the Everglades, said Robert Fletcher, a UF/IFAS associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation.
The population of snail kites declined from about 3,500 to about 700 from 1999 through 2008. The bird has bounced back a bit, to about 1,700 birds in 2014, mostly in the lake habitats to the north of the Everglades.
Because of the snail kite's dwindling population, Fletcher led a 17-year study into dispersal patterns of the federally endangered bird. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, spans the years 1997 to 2013.
Researchers counted birds and determined where individual snail kites nested over time to see if they returned to their abodes. The scientists' work shows that despite the fact that snail kites move around considerably, they have strong preferences for places like home, and this impacts breeding, Fletcher said.