Swallow-tailed kites (STKI) are Soaring into the CREW Lands

By Nan Mattingly and Allison Vincent

STKI feeding on the wing. Photo by Bill Zaino, CREW Trust Volunteer

If you’ve hung around any tall pine trees lately, there’s a chance – even if you didn’t notice – that you’ve been within view of one of southwest Florida’s most social flying raptors, the swallow-tailed kite (STKI). Returning from South America in mid-February every year like a romantic poem written especially for a birder just in time for Valentine’s Day, they almost immediately start circling the tall tree tops in search of their favorite nesting spot. We have a lot of unanswered questions regarding these world travelers, but there is plenty that we do know! This article will be a refresher course covering some of the top questions we hear from you about our black and white aerial artists at the CREW Trails. 

STKIs Journey to Nest

When we begin to spot STKIs in Florida in mid-February, they must be tired from their long journey because they’ve just flown in from South America, a journey of up to 6,000 miles. Some of them make it as far as seven of the southernmost states in the U.S. but Florida is their preferred destination and we see them in the greatest numbers here. We’re fortunate at CREW because they have a few favorite nesting areas within the CREW Project and between February and August we have the privilege of seeing them circle and soar over the treetops.

Left: Treetop nest toward the end of last nesting season. Right: STKI finds an old nest to make new this March, 2022. Photos by Dick Brewer, CREW Trust Volunteer

On arrival they begin looking for suitable nesting sites. There are two essentials for nesting, which they do in loose communities. They need tall trees (preferably pines, occasionally cypress and other tall trees) in open woodland where they can hunt abundant prey by sight, and they prefer to be near a source of water – a swamp, river, marsh or a slough – because they also capture and consume creatures living next to or in the water. Most STKIs return to the same nesting sites every year, often fixing up an old nest. In the early part of their stay in Florida, you’ll see them circling high overhead inspecting the territory.

Relationships of Swallow-tailed Kites

STKIs are believed to be monogamous. They may continue a relationship from the previous year, or they may find a mate during migration. Once the colony has chosen a good nesting site, they establish small territories around and above the nests and they guard their territories (or neighborhoods) by flying in small circles above the nest tree. Intruders are repelled with dive bombs and scolding cries sometimes described as loud, squeaky whistles.  

Both males and females bring nest materials to the site. They can build the nest quickly, in only one day, or more slowly, up to two weeks. They begin by making a platform of small, loosely woven sticks and then line it with soft materials such as lichen or Spanish moss, creating either a flat surface or a shallow cup. Most STKI nests are situated at least 60 feet above the ground.    

Each pair of STKIs produces a clutch of one to three eggs which incubate for 27 to 33 days. After the eggs hatch, the parents feed them frequently. The male STKI catches and carries prey in his talons to the nest, where he passes it to the female. She then tears it up and feeds it to the young. 

Photos by CREW Trust Volunteer Dick Brewer illustrating STKI development stages (starts at top left).

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner – Feeding on the Wing

To catch that prey, the male hunts during the day “on the wing”, while in flight, picking prey off trees, shrubs and vegetation along rivers or other water bodies. And what are they looking for? STKIs like large insects such as dragonflies, wasps, cicadas, beetles and grasshoppers which they eat while flying. During the breeding season, adults also hunt small vertebrates, including tree frogs, lizards, nesting birds, and snakes. Occasionally STKIs devour bats, fish or fruit.  

We’re fortunate in southwest Florida to welcome these magnificent birds. You can identify them, at the right time of year (between February and August), first by noticing their long, forked tails and then by observing their graceful flight. They swoop and glide high overhead, catching insects in the air or descending to the treetops to find small creatures to eat. Unlike some other birds, they rarely flap their wings, and you should count yourself lucky if you see them on the ground. An individual STKI has a shrill “pee, pee, pee” call, but when they gather in flocks you’ll hear sweet, shrill cries or soft whistles. It’s a magical experience to find yourself looking up at a circling flock and hearing those whistles.  

You may have noticed that the CREW logo features the swallow-tailed kite. We don’t like to choose favorites, but it’s hard to resist these charismatic birds which are recognized by many as the most beautiful bird of prey. Just ask Brenda Brooks, CREW Trust Executive Director until 3/31/22, when she will make her own version of a migration north.

Fine Feathered Friends Found at CREW

By Nan Mattingly, CREW Trust volunteer

You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the birds at all four CREW trail systems, and you don’t need fancy equipment. Just an inexpensive pair of binoculars and the will to get outside and use them.

We consulted with some birding experts to identify birds you’re likely to see throughout CREW. Their best tip for seeing most of the birds named below is to start early in the morning, just after sunrise.

CREW Marsh Trails

Blue jay: A medium size bird with a blue body, black bars on the wings and a crest on the top of the head. Present year-round in Florida. At CREW Marsh Trails, look for them in the large live oaks just north of the tower overlooking the marsh. You may hear them before you see them; they have a variety of loud calls and unique songs.

Red-shouldered hawk: Medium to large size raptor with rust-red bars on its breast and where the wing meets the body. Tends to use the same territory for years, even the same nests. Screeching, repetitive call. This hawk stalks prey from a perch, so look up when you hear that loud call. Found throughout CREW; at the Marsh Trails, you may see them in the pine flatwoods and oak hammocks.

CREW Cypress Dome Trails and Caracara Prairie Preserve

Swallow-tailed kite: All black and white with a sharply forked tail and a four-foot wingspan. Nests in the tops of pine trees in early spring in southwest Florida, migrating from South America. It’s a breathtaking sight to see a group of kites circling and swooping, dropping briefly to skim the surface of lakes to drink or bathe. Listen carefully for their sweet, shrill cries or soft whistles.

Turkey vulture: Red head, white-tipped beak, dark body feathers that resemble those of a turkey. Soars above tree tops alert for freshly killed prey, using both sight and smell to find food. They are a consummate scavenger, cleaning up the countryside one bite at a time. This bird has no song, but it hisses, grunts and growls when eating.

Carolina wren: Medium size bird with a brown crown, white throat, buff-colored or white underparts, rufous-colored back and wings and a distinctive white stripe above the eye. Once paired, they define and maintain a territory and stay together for several years. They raise multiple broods during the summer breeding season. These birds like to hang out in undergrowth and sometimes you have to identify them by their loud, distinctive song which sounds like “teakettle, teakettle, teakettle” or “cherry, cherry, cherry.”

CREW Bird Rookery Swamp

Snowy egret: A small white heron with black legs and a long black bill with a yellow patch at its base; yellow feet (think of them as yellow snow boots to remember their name). At one time the plumes of the snowy egret were in demand to decorate women’s hats and plume hunters decimated their numbers, but now protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and their population has rebounded. Snowy egrets wade in shallow water to spear fish and other small aquatic animals.     

Northern parula: Small, compact warbler with blue-gray upper parts and bronze-green back patch. Throat and breast are yellow and belly is white. Winters in southwest Florida. The northern parula feeds on insects and invertebrates; occasionally hovers or hangs upside down on foliage to catch insects in the air. Its song is an ascending “zeeeee-yip”. Fairly common in Bird Rookery Swamp, less common in other parts of CREW, because it prefers the swampy, forested habitat.  

Green heron: Small heron with a glossy, greenish cap and back. Its wings are gray-black grading into green or blue, and it has a chestnut-colored neck with a white stripe. Active during the day, it walks slowly or stands motionless in water to wait for prey, and then it strikes quickly with its daggerlike bill. This heron has been seen to place food in the water to attract fish. Sometimes you’ll see them perched in trees and shrubs. 

CREW Flint Pen Strand

Bald eagle: The bald eagle is the star of the show at Flint Pen Strand, larger and more impressive than other raptors found there. Most of us are familiar with its distinctive look – white head, neck and tail, big yellow bill and dark brown body. Swooping over water, it hunts its favorite prey – fish – and its strong hind talon pierces the fish while the front talons hold the fish securely. Its wing span is six to seven feet. A pair of bald eagles has been nesting around the eastern side of Flint Pen Strand for some years, and lucky hikers are occasionally treated to the sight of a bald eagle soaring overhead.     

Eastern bluebird: Brilliant blue back and wings, with a rusty breast and white underparts. Often seen in open woodlands and clearings; look for them in the northeast corner of the lakes area. It makes its loose nest of grass or plant stems in natural tree cavities, even in abandoned woodpecker holes. Its population declined by 90% in the last century, partly because as trees are felled, it loses its favorite nesting sites. Bird boxes have helped restore the population. 

Woodpeckers: Woodpeckers of all kinds are year-round residents, including red-bellied, downy, pileated and sapsucker woodpeckers. Most remarkable is a sizable population of red-headed woodpeckers, with their solid red heads, black wings and white wing bars. You’ll see them near the southern portion of the red trail, usually hunting insects on dead trees.

Some hints for beginning birders:

Invest in a pair of binoculars and learn how to use them; take along a good field guide like Sibley’s Bird Basics, which will teach you how to identify birds by characteristics; download a good bird identification app like the Audubon Bird Guide and eBird; wear dull, neutral colors to blend into the natural background; and respect nature – don’t step off the trail to get a good picture, and don’t harass birds. If you can, tag along with an experienced birder and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. If you want to start and keep a list of birds you’ve observed, there are many apps that provide guidance and allow you to keep your list on your phone.

More resources on birds:

Cornell Ornithology Lab maintains a web site called “All About Birds” which covers just about everything you need to know to get started and develop your skills. A particularly useful book for this region is Birds of Florida by Fred J. Alsop III. And here’s a cool website:  https://birdcast.info/migration-tools/, where you can follow bird migration in real time all over the U.S.

Please share your best bird photos with the CREW community, on our CREW Land & Water Trust Facebook page or send them directly to Allison@CREWTrust.org.     

Many thanks to knowledgeable birders who contributed to this piece: Jayne Johnston, former education coordinator, CREW Land & Water Trust; Dick Brewer, volunteer naturalist and brilliant citizen scientist; Barbara Centola, CREW Trust volunteer and birder extraordinaire; and Kathleen Smith and Lauren Plussa, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

Photo Scavenger Hunt

The April Edition

During the CREW trails closure we asked CREW Trust Facebook fans to send in their best photos from before the closure. We called it the CREW Trust Photo Scavenger Hunt and the response was impressive.


1.) Swallow-tailed Kite, Elanoides forficatus

1st place photo from category one of our #stayathome contest is another Swallow-tailed Kite! This one comes to us from Dick Brewer. Thank you for the beautiful mom and chicks photo!

Swallow-tailed kites come to us from South America midwinter to nest. The adults and juveniles migrate back separately in late summer. Keep an eye out in late summer for large flocks of these birds. https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/swtkit/cur/introduction

photo by Dick Brewer

2nd place winner for our first category of the #stayathome photo contest – Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) by Anthony Eugenio. Thank you Anthony for your beautiful submission! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swallow-tailed_Kite/id

photo by Anthony Eugenio

2.) Native Florida wildflower

1st place in category two of our #stayathome contest – St. John’s Wort/Hypericum by Brenda Thomas, CREW Trustee! Thanks for this beauty, Brenda!

You may have heard of St. John’s Wort as a medicinal remedy. We don’t recommend picking these flowers since they are in their raw form and you cannot legally collect from CREW. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/st-johns-wort-and-depression-in-depth

photo by Brenda Thomas

2nd place in category two of our #stayathome photo contest. Photo by CREW Volunteer Dick Brewer https://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/bletia-purpurea

photo by Dick Brewer

3.) Red-headed Woodpecker, Melanerpes erythrocephalus

1st place in category 3 of our #stayathome contest is Morris Gieselman with the Red-headed woodpecker! Beautiful shot, Morris! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/id

photo by Morris Geiselman

2nd place in category 3 of our #stayathome photo contest is this Red-headed woodpecker by CREW Trust volunteer, Dick Brewer! What a great catch (for you and the woodpecker)! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/id

photo by Dick Brewer

4.) Animal track

1st place in our #stayathome contest is an alligator track from CREW Bird Rookery Swamp by Patty Pushcar! If you have out of town guests interested in seeing a real and wild American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), CREW Bird Rookery Swamp is the place! https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/reptiles/alligator

2nd place in our #stayathome contest is Anthony Eugenio with another American Alligator Track from the CREW Bird Rookery Swamp Trail! Thanks, Anthony, for sharing this cool photo! https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/American-Alligator-Fact-Sheet.pdf

photo by Anthony Eugenio

5.) An arthropod

1st place in our #stayathome contest is this species interaction between a spider and raccoon. Congrats, Brenda Centenaro Stelzer, for capturing such a neat photo at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp. https://www.fdacs.gov/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Florida-State-Collection-of-Arthropods

photo by Brenda Stelzer

2nd place in our #stayathome contest comes from Anthony Eugenio of a common arthropod, the Lubber Grasshopper. If you’re seeing them on the trails this time of year, there are smaller, black, with an orange, red or yellow line running from their face to their tail.


photo by Anthony Eugenio

6.) CREW at night from one of the two campsites

1st place in our #stayathome contest comes from a former FWC biologist and current Conservation Collier Environmental Specialist, Molly DuVall at our CREW Cypress Dome Trail Gate 3 Campsite. While we miss Molly, we appreciate that she still enjoys the trails and camping at CREW in her free time!

photo by Molly DuVall

2nd place of our #stayathome contest comes from Anthony Eugenio at our CREW Marsh Trail Gate 5 Campsite. Campsites are still not open, but when available, they are enjoyed one group at a time. Primitive camping under the stars with only a fire ring and picnic table. Nature at its best!

photo by Anthony Eugenio

7.) Sunrise or sunset from one of the four trails

1st place in our #stayathome contest is a sunrise and moonset over CREW Flint Pen Strand by John Lane. Spectacular, John! CREW Flint Pen Strand is our newest trial system and the only one in Lee County. https://crewtrust.org/flint-pen-strand-2/

photo by John Lane

2nd place in our #stayathome contest comes from CREW Trust volunteer, Dick Brewer at CREW Flint Pen Strand. Dick is a wealth of knowledge and has contributed significantly to the educational resources available on our website. We cannot succeed in the work we do without volunteers like Dick. https://crewtrust.org/crew-trail-guides-educational-materials/

photo by Dick Brewer

8.) Equestrian activities at CREW Flint Pen Strand or CREW Dome Trails

1st place in our #stayathome contest comes from Jennifer Law at CREW Flint Pen Strand Trails. Did you know that horseback riding is available at CREW Flint Pen Strand and CREW Cypress Dome Trails? You’ll still need a free special use license from the South Florida Water Management District, but it is well worth it based on the number of equestrians using the trails. Thank you, Jennifer! https://crewtrust.org/horseback-riding/

photo by Jennifer Law

2nd place in our #stayathome contest comes from Dick Brewer at CREW Flint Pen Strand Trails. You don’t have to be a horseback rider to appreciate the sport of human and animal enjoying a healthy dose of exercise in nature! https://animalscience.tamu.edu/2015/06/15/study-examines-health-benefits-of-horseback-riding/

photo by Dick Brewer

9.) Bicycling with friends at one of the three CREW trails

1st and 2nd place in our #stayathome contest go to Dick Brewer! Bicycle riding the 3 of our 4 trails, especially CREW Bird Rookery Swamp, is a favorite activity for many of our volunteers and visitors. The other 2 trails available for bicycling are CREW Cypress Dome and CREW Flint Pen Strand. 

10.) Walking your leashed pet at one of the four CREW trails

1st place in our #stayathome contest comes from Cash and Molly! Dog walking is encouraged at all 4 of our trails as long as they are on a short (6’) leash – the safest option for you, your dog, and wildlife!


photo by Molly DuVall

2nd place in our #stayathome contest comes from John Lane at the CREW Marsh Trails. We are so happy to see our furry friends and their owners using the trails safely. Protect your pets while at home and on the trails. https://myfwc.com/media/1892/protect-your-pet.pdf

photo by John Lane

Like our Facebook page @CREWtrust if you’re interested in future events.

All CREW Trails OPEN- April 29, 2020

You’ve all waited patiently for your favorite CREW trails to reopen. Well, the day has arrived!

You can immediately head out to the trails to enjoy the fresh air at all four CREW trail systems: Bird Rookery Swamp Trail, CREW Marsh Trails, Cypress Dome Trails and Flint Pen Strand Trails.

Please remember we all need to practice social distancing, even on the trails.

Consider the “bottleneck” areas, like the parking lot or boardwalks as spaces to be especially considerate of others space.

We will continue to update our media pages as we learn more from the South Florida Water Management District.

All CREW Trails Closed Effective April 4th

April 3, 2020

As part of ongoing efforts to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 and protect public safety, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will temporarily close the all CREW trails, effective at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Closure includes Bird Rookery Swamp, Flint Pen Strand, Cypress Dome and CREW Marsh trails.

The District follows the lead of local governments that have issued Safer at Home orders in their communities and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health.

Read the official post from South Florida Water Management District blog: https://www.sfwmd.gov/news/sfwmd-temporarily-closing-crew-lands-southwest-florida-reduce-potential-spread-covid-19

All CREW Trails are STILL OPEN

Check our website for daily updates regarding trail status

We want everyone to know that all four of the CREW trail systems- Bird Rookery Swamp, Flint Pen Strand, Cypress Dome Trail, and CREW Marsh Trails are all currently open. We are updating our website daily with current information regarding their status. So get out to the trails soon, just be sure to keep a 6-foot distance between yourself and others. As always, your donations and support are greatly appreciated, so bring a few extra bucks to drop in the donation box on the trails. Stay well everyone!

White Pelican Party

As the water dries down at CREW’s Flint Pen Strand trails, an abundance of wading birds have become regular visitors to the lakes. You can access the lakes two different ways: by hiking from the Main Parking lot or parking in the smaller Lakes Parking lot adjacent to the lakes. If you want to see these birds arrive early for sunrise or later for sunset. Take your time approaching these flighty hunters and you will be rewarded with views perfect for unbelievable photographs. For some inspiration, take a look through this collection from CREW Trust volunteer, Bill Zaino’s recent photos capturing White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Woodstorks, Tricolored Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Limpkins and Greater Yellowlegs .

See what’s flitting around Bird Rookery Swamp this week!

Special thanks to volunteer naturalist Dick Brewer, who regularly visits the CREW trails and compiles wildlife counts. This valuable citizen science is shared with the CREW Trust staff and our FWC biologists and helps give us a glimpse of all the wildlife using the trails.

Needham’s Skimmer, identified and photographed by Dick Brewer

Bird Rookery Swamp

Thursday, March 28 ~~ 7:25 AM – 2:10 PM

temperature: 59.3-77.8º ~~ RH 83.9-44.9%

sky: clear ~~ wind 7-12 mph


Common Gallinule – 1

Double-crested Cormorant – 1

Anhinga – 10

Great Blue Heron – 2

Great Egret – 12

Snowy Egret – 1

Little Blue Heron – 5

Tri-colored Heron – 1

Black-crowned Night Heron – 2

White Ibis – 72

Black Vulture – 3

Turkey Vulture – 4

Swallow-tailed Kite – 7

Red-shouldered Hawk – 23

Belted Kingfisher – 4

Red-bellied Woodpecker – 23

Downy Woodpecker – 3

Pileated Woodpecker – 5

Great-crested Flycatcher – 3

Eastern Phoebe –  1

White-eyed Vireo – 19

Blue Jay – 1

American Crow – 2

Tufted Titmouse – 9

Carolina Wren – 17

House Wren – 1

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 2

Gray Catbird – 13

Common Grackle – 9

Palm Warbler –  2

Northern Cardinal – 13


Palamedes Swallowtail – 3

Tiger Swallowtail – 1

Ruddy Daggerwing – 1

White Peacock – 61

Gulf Fritillary – 1

Phaon Crescent – 1

Tropical Checker – 3


Eastern Pondhawk – 72

Blue Dasher – 82

Blue Dasher, identified and photographed by Dick Brewer

Needham’s Skimmer – 18

Regal Darner – 3

Halloween Pennant – 1

Slaty Skimmer – 1


Alligator – 41

Brown Anole – 1

Red-bellied Turtle – 3


White-tailed Deer – 1

10 Reasons we love STKs (Swallow-tailed Kites)

It is one of our favorite times of the year.

We actually look forward to the arrival of the Swallow-tailed Kites with something akin to the anticipation of a birthday or holiday.

And when the first birds arrive, the flurry of emails start as people brag about who saw the very first STK of the season.

A swallow-tailed kite soars with a frog in its talons.

We’re crazy about kites at the CREW Project and we know some of you are, too. Here are 10 reasons we love Swallow-Tailed Kites.

1 – Aerodynamics

We could watch kites soar all day long. As one of our volunteers pointed out, the entire design of the bird is aerodynamic and sleek, as if their body is made to slide right through the air. They swoop effortlessly and gracefully to grab prey and it’s while soaring that we are able to easily identify them by their long, forked tail.

2 – Migration patterns

Swallow-tailed kites migrate to Southwest Florida each year from South America to breed. We are their first stop on their winter migration and they normally arrive here in the third or fourth week of February, then gradually later through the rest of Florida, according to the Birds of North America website. Once the adults arrive, they begin gathering nesting material and prepare nests often in the same spot or vicinity as they nested the previous year. Swallow-tailed kites will stay in our area until June or July, and then the adults leave several weeks prior to the juveniles’ departure.

3- Nesting

Swallow-tailed kites are raptors, but they do not have particular strong feet or talons. That’s why they use Spanish moss as nesting material! They have been seen carrying very small, lightweight sticks, but their primary nesting material is Spanish moss. They also nest very high in the “V” of pine trees which make the nests challenging to spot. And, once they chicks hatch, the adults continue to add nesting materials. So, a nest that starts out convex to hold an egg, will eventually become concave as the chick grows!

(Thank you, Kathleen Smith, CREW biologist, for that fun fact)

Swallow-tailed kite carrying Spanish moss for nesting.

4 – Challenge

Everything about the Swallow-tailed kite is challenging! Have you ever tried to get a GOOD PHOTO? Especially of one flying? It’s extremely difficult and we’ve watched plenty of wildlife photographers on the trail gasp in frustration as the birds soar past. And it’s not just capturing the birds on film that is tough – finding the nests is also hard! Because the nests are so high in the trees, and only made sparsely with Spanish moss, they are difficult to find. But, once you have found the nest, you can go back each year and check for activity. For our biologists and volunteer citizen scientists, that challenge is part of the fun of monitoring the kites.

5- Coloration

From the beautiful snow-white head and underbody to the sleek inky wings and back, the kite is a study in contrasting colors. It makes them easily recognizable in the raptor family – for their color and for their forked tail.

6 – The Tail

That gorgeous, v-shaped tail is how all of us easily identify the Swallow-tailed Kite. And, as we inch towards summer, we can tell the juvenilles in flight from the adults because the adults will have longer forked tails than the juvenilles.

7- Feeding time fun

Part of loving raptors is loving the fat that they do raptor stuff – meaning we aren’t upset when we see a bird of prey carrying home dinner. The kites are no exception. They will eat large insects, but remember, they do not have strong feet so they don’t pick up heavy prey. Instead, they mainly eat herps – frogs, anoles and snakes. As a hiker and birder, it can be quite fun to try and puzzle out what they are carrying home to feed their chicks. 

8 – Nice Neighbors

One thing that makes them different from other raptors is that the kites will nest near other kites, forming loose neighborhoods (thanks for that name, Kathleen!). That makes it a bit easier for our citizen scientists and the CREW biologists when locating nests. It also makes for easy playdate scheduling (just kidding, birds don’t have playdates).

A kite and chick within the CREW Project.

9 – The CREW Trust Logo

The Swallow-tailed Kite is the bird featured on our logo! We are very proud of the kites, and the fact that the 60,000-acre Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed is land preserved for water and wildlife and provides habitat for these migratory raptors.

10 – Bringing Friends

The nest monitoring done each year by CREW FWC biologists and volunteers has shown that the numbers of swallow-tailed kites nesting within the 60,000-acres is growing! That’s exciting for us and great news for the birds. You have a really good chance of seeing Swallow-tailed Kites at all four of the CREW Project Trails. They roost around the lake at Bird Rookery Swamp (hike out to the lake, under two miles); they swoop over the red trail at Flint Pen Strand; they have a LOT of nests around the Cypress Dome Trails; and we spot them in the pine flatwoods areas of the CREW Marsh Trails. We hope you’ll celebrate the return of the kites – and their growing population within CREW – by coming out with your friends and exploring the trails in hopes of spotting a kite or two.

special thanks to CREW FWC staff and CREW Trust Volunteers for sharing the photos used in this blogpost.

Brrrrrrrr! Who is roaming Birdy Rookery Swamp in these wintry conditions?

Too cold to head to the trails? Thinking the animals will be huddling somewhere for warmth?

That is true for many of our reptile friends, but the weekend’s heavy rain combined with the cool temperatures made for a lot of wading birds out and about Monday morning at Bird Rookery Swamp!

CREW Trust volunteer naturalist Dick Brewer braved the elements and sent in his wildlife count from yesterday’s chilly excursion.

Photo credits: Dick Brewer

Bird Rookery Swamp

Monday, January 28, 2019 ~~ 7:20 AM – 1:20 PM

temperature: 47.1-54.0º ~~ RH 84.0-76.8%

sky: overcast ~~ wind 7-10 mph


Muscovy Duck – 1

Double-crested Cormorant – 2

Anhinga – 29

Great Blue Heron – 16

Great Egret – 34

Snowy Egret – 2

Little Blue Heron – 19

Tri-colored Heron –  7

Black-crowned Night Heron – 35

White Ibis – 145

Roseate Spoonbill – 2

Black Vulture – 38

Turkey Vulture – 9

Red-shouldered Hawk – 14

Belted Kingfisher – 5

Red-bellied Woodpecker – 15

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1

Downy Woodpecker – 1

Pileated Woodpecker – 7

Great-crested Flycatcher – 3

Eastern Phoebe –  3

White-eyed Vireo – 9

Blue-headed Vireo – 2

Tufted Titmouse – 3

Carolina Wren – 10

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 8

Gray Catbird – 28

Northern Mockingbird – 1

American Goldfinch – 1

Common Grackle – 11

Black-and-white Warbler – 1

Common Yellowthroat – 10

Palm Warbler –  19

Northern Cardinal – 9

Painted Bunting – 3


Alligator –  7


Gray Squirrel – 2

River Otter – 2

Raccoon – 5

White-tailed Deer – 1

%d bloggers like this: