Swallow-tailed Kites: An Endangered Species in South Carolina

Event Location: 
BCCMWS Room 100
Event Date: 
Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 3:00pm
Event Type: 
SCMSS Seminar Series

Presenter: Jonathan Petrigac

There are many endangered species of birds across North America. Although not federally listed the Swallow-Tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus is considered by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources an endangered species. Other states that inhabit Swallow-tailed Kites list them as species of concern. Swallow-tailed Kites were previously found to nest in 21 states before the 1900s. These birds migrate from South America to the Southeastern U.S. to breed in the summer months. However after populations underwent a dramatic decline between 1880 and 1910 the current distribution has been limited to just 7 states including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. The decline in population is mainly contributed to habitat lost due to agriculture development and other land conversion. The Waccamaw Wildlife Refuge currently supports the highest density of nesting Swallow-tailed Kites in South Carolina. The refuge and the surrounding areas are considered the northern most documented nesting area.

These birds have highly social behavior especially when roosting and nesting. Kites tend to roost and nest in clusters which present challenges because they desire particular habitat. Most of the Swallow-tailed Kite breeding grounds in the U.S. are unprotected so habitat alteration will not only displace a pair but larger numbers. Recent conservation efforts in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have applied management practices by researching survivorship in adults by satellite tracking and tagging nestlings with VHF transmitters to track dispersal. These management practices are important for the health of future populations of Swallow-tailed Kites.