Snail Kite

Scientific Name: Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus


These birds of prey are found in the wetlands of central and southern Florida. They feed on almost exclusively on apple snails, and this diet restricts them to marshy areas along the shores and islands of major lakes where their prey lives.

snail kite
Snail Kite with de-shelled apple snail | Dean Fleischman

Refuges where the snail kite can be found:


Though the snail-kite breeds in tropical South America, the Caribbean and Florida, the Everglades population consists of only 400 to 500 breeding pairs. Habitat manipulation and destruction caused the decline of this bird, and it was listed as an endangered species in 1967.

The snail-kite once had a stronghold in the marshes around Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades. However, lake levels have been raised in recent decades to irrigate farms. This has inundated many marshes, making it difficult for the snail-kite to find food here.


Snail kite (Loxahatchee NWR, FL, Joaquin Paredes)
Snail kite, Loxahatchee NWR, FL | Joaquin Paredes

The Everglade snail-kite is a locally endangered hawk species in the Florida Everglades. Adults have a wingspan of nearly 45 inches, a slender and hooked beak, and a long tail with a white rump. The snail-kite uses its uniquely adapted beak to feed almost exclusively on freshwater apple snails. It searches for its prey by flying with its head downward to scan its surroundings, and then grabs the snail with its legs.

What NWRA is doing:

Beyond the Boundaries: Everglades

Help us protect important habitat in Florida for the snail-kite and other animals. NWRA’s Beyond the Boundaries: Everglades program is working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners to conserve land, water and wildlife in Florida’s Greater Everglades. Stretching from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in the north to Big Cypress National Preserve in the south, the Greater Everglades region contains dry prairies, longleaf pine savannas, expansive working ranchlands and seasonally wet grasslands. This relatively intact landscape also serves as habitat for the imperiled snail-kite in central Florida. Learn more.

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