Wildlife Wednesday: A Time for Kites


Photo by Dan Rimar

In these hot, humid days of summer most of us humans try to stay indoors or in the shade to stay cool. But if you happen to step outside and gaze to the sky – especially at CREW – you may just witness one of the most spectacular sightings in all of southwest Florida. Swallow-tailed kites (Elanoides forficatus) migrate to Florida from Brazil each spring to build nests and raise their young throughout our summer rainy season.

As August arrives, these graceful kites can be seen more often in groups flying overhead, often feeding their young, and staging or gathering in large communal groups as they prepare for their 3000-mile journey back to Brazil. The adults and their young offspring (just 2 months old) will head south again in mid-August and we won’t see them again until late February to mid-March. We’ve been seeing them in groups of 20 – 25 regularly at Bird Rookery Swamp and in smaller groups of 12 – 15 around the CREW Marsh Trails and field office. Those groups will get larger as the month goes on, until one day soon when they all head south again.

So, if you want to get a last look at these magnificent birds, head on out to one of the CREW Trails early one morning soon. Listen for their piercing whistles and watch their pre-migration antics. It’s worth every minute of your time!

To learn more about swallow-tailed kites, go here.


Wildlife Wednesday: Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake

Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake – Sistrurus miliarius barbouri – photo by Brenda Thomas

Pygmy rattlesnakes are commonly seen at CREW, especially during the late summer months of August and September. We seem to always have them hanging out by our office on the ramp leading up to the door. While small, pygmy rattlers are venomous and can produce a painful bite if provoked.

They feed on frogs and mice. Average adults are from 12 – 24 inches long. They are common in lowland pine flatwoods, along lakes and rivers, near marshes and  prairies, and here in southwest Florida are often seen along canal banks or curled up in a mulch bed or by a door frame.

It’s always a good idea to wear closed-toed shoes while hiking or when working in the yard if you have suitable habitat nearby. Being aware so as to avoid stepping on one protects both you and the snake. If you ever see one, you will marvel at the beautiful color and pattern of its scales. The best thing to do when you encounter a pygmy rattlesnake is to give it the respect it deserves, and leave it alone.

To find out more, go to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Online Guide to Snakes.

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