Readers’ wildlife photos

April 9, 2022 • 10:45 am

Today’s photos come from Paul Edelman, an emeritus professor of Mathematics and Law at Vanderbilt University. His notes are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

When we were down in Sanibel, FL we once again visited Harns Marsh in Lehigh, FL.  I’ve sent you pictures from there before.  This time we were fortunate enough to see the Snail Kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis).  South central Florida is the only place in North America where one can find these birds and this population is under considerable threat.  The University of Florida, in conjunction with the United States Geological Survey, is currently monitoring and researching the Florida population.

Snail kites flying:

One problem for the snail kite is that its diet consists almost only of apple snails (genus Pomacea).  At Harns they are in competition for the snails with the Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), but since they hunt for these snails in different fashion (the kites from above and the limpkins from below) they seem to peacefully coexist.  The real threat is eradication of the marsh habitat cutting off their supply of food.

Snail kites with food:

A limpkin:

On a more interesting evolutionary front, the snail kites in Florida had to deal with an invasive species of apple snail that was crowding out the indigenous ones.  This invasive species was considerably larger than the native snail, which made it more difficult for the snail kite to feed.  Interestingly, according to this study, the snail kites actually evolved to have larger beaks so that they could feed effectively on the new larger snail!!

These birds are just gorgeous.  I apologize for some of the pictures being less than stellar, but the birds were not being particularly cooperative.  Nevertheless, the birds are quite unusual in many ways and I thought your readers would enjoy seeing them.

9 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. I think the photos are great! And Snail Kite is a bird I really want to see one of these days, struck out on both my trips to The Everglades. I have seen Limpkins, since I regularly visit my daughter in Tallahassee, and we always go to Wakulla Springs for the pontoon boat tours. Sadly the Apple Snails disappeared from that area some years back, and then so did the Limpkins. Still a wonderful tour.

  2. The snail kites are gorgeous. That hook on the beak is especially impressive. Thank you for posting the photos. I’ve really missed the wildlife photos and am so glad they’re back again.

  3. That is so interesting! One is sure set to wondering what may be done to help out the kites. I imagine some benefits are had by preserving the habitat that they require, and maybe a rearing program for their snails.

  4. Those are certainly some respectable talons on those kites!!! Thank you for sharing these interesting photos and notes.

  5. How odd – a raptor specialized to feed on snails.
    Thanks for making these photos available – a nice feeding series.

  6. I think those photos are totally stellar! Interesting that evolution has been observed in action with regard to the beaks of the kite.
    Would you be kind enough to advise the camera and exposure details for these images? Thank you.

  7. Interesting about the evolution of the snail kite’s beak. I had not heard about that. By the way, snail kites are now established as far north as Gainesville, Florida and can be reliably observed at Sweetwater Wetlands Park and Paynes Prairie State Park.

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