Snail Kite with the day's catch

Phillip  Simmons

Lake Mary, United States

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Artist's Description

I’m proud of myself for this one. Had to hike through tall weeds to get to an observation tower where there happened to be four or five feeding beneath me.

The snail kite is a specialist whose diet consists of freshwater Pomacea snails. With a few rare exceptions, kites in Florida are completely dependent upon the apple snail (Pomacea paludosa) for food . The birds hunt in a number of flooded freshwater marsh habitats: Aquatic sloughs, wet prairies, shallow littoral zones of lakes and ponds, old alligator holes, shallow river margins with aquatic vegetation, canals, and ditches. Approximately 97% of the foraging bouts are over aquatic sloughs and wet prairies. Snails are captured while they are near the water surface feeding, traversing, or while resting on aquatic vegetation below the surface. Kites hunt by two methods; still-hunting (initiated from a convenient perch over water) and course-hunting (on the wing). In both methods snails are taken by the bird while hovering or flying very slowly above the water surface. Snails are captured with the talons, while seldom getting the feathers of the wings, tail, or body wet in the process (kites do not plunge to capture prey as do ospreys and eagles). Kites hunt over relatively open water areas, containing minimal emergent aquatic vegetation. The captured snail is taken to a perch where the operculum is removed and discarded, the soft tissue of the snail extracted, the shell dropped, and the soft parts then eaten. Kites always avoid eating the albumen glands of female snails and often discard all or part of the viscera. Adults feed their young extracted snails. Kites hunt throughout the day with intermittent periods of individual inactivity (particularly between 10 am and 3 pm).

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Artwork Comments

  • melant1017
  • Karen  Moore
  • Phillip  Simmons
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