Monday, May 23, 2011

Swallow-tailed Kites

In the past two weeks, we have seen a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus) soaring over the parking area and the power line corridor adjacent to the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  As the population of this species of bird is poorly understood, you should report any sightings on the Centers for Birds of Prey webpage.

The Francis Beidler Forest protects over 17,000 acres of Four Holes Swamp, including 1800 acres of old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp.  However, we have long understood that protecting the swamp itself is not sufficient to protect the ecosystem.  Snakes move out of the swamp to den in the higher, drier land that along the edges of the swamp.  Turtles must lay their eggs on dry land.  Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) bring their fledglings out of the swamp to the denser vegetation along the swamp's edge before they migrate south for the winter.  Studies of Swallow-tailed Kites show that they too require habitat beyond the bottomland forests.  A major food source for kites are beetles and other insects that are found flying over fields adjacent to the swamp.  Management of the fields can affect the number of insects available for the kites and development could eliminate the foraging habitat.

There is an article on the subject in yesterday's Post and Courier.

Image by Don Wuori

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