I had the opportunity to go out on a 2 hour charter on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, FL this past Saturday for an opportunity to photograph the endangered Snail Kites. In North America, Snail Kites are only found in Central and South Florida. Previously known as the Everglades Kite, there is now a larger population in Central Florida than in South Florida.
A Snail Kite’s diet consists almost exclusively of apple snails, so the birds will be found where there is an abundance of these snails. Apple snails are found in freshwater marshes and shallow lakes. Apple snails were once very common in Florida, but because water levels in lakes are artificially controlled in many areas and the introduction of invasive species, experts believe this has led to a decline in apple snails. Due to the lack of a consistent diet, Snail Kites are endangered in Florida, but are fairly common in Central America and Cuba.
On this particular trip we went out on the Miss Toho, a pontoon boat owned and operated by Captain Rick Brothers who runs Kissimmee Outdoor Adventures. Captain Rick was able to get us close to the nesting areas of the Snail Kites for some fantastic photo opportunities. I highly recommend Captain Rick and the Miss Toho if you’re interested in a tour. We had 4 photographers on the boat and all of us came away with some fantastic images. Here are a few of my favorite images from the trip. Click the images to view larger.
In this first image is a male Snail Kite with a large piece of snail meat. Notice the long black antenna dangling from his feet. This indicates a radio transmitter which is used to track his movements so researchers can learn more about their habits.
Here is a female Snail Kite that posed for us. Notice the distinct plumage differences between the two sexes.
Here’s another image of a male Snail Kite.
This female gave us some great opportunities as she flew over and around the boat looking for a meal.
I particularly like this image of a female Snail Kite as she was calling out.
We did see other species during our trip including Limpkin, Least Bittern and Bald Eagle. But the Snail Kites were by far the stars of the outing.