Will Fly For Food: Snail Kites in Apple Snail Paradise!

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This weekend my dad and I went exploring and found Apple Snail Paradise.  What’s an apple snail?  It starts as a small pink egg – you might have seen one in a nearby pond.  The mature snail has a shell about the size of a small fist.  Two types of birds love apple snails, Limpkins and Snail Kites.  So you can guess what kinds of birds we found in Apple Snail Paradise…

Snail Kite with Apple Snail
Snail Kite with Apple Snail

Yep, that’s a female Snail Kite.  A year-round resident in Florida, this bird’s main food source is the apple snail.  Snail kites are endangered in the US and in Florida, and I’ve had limited opportunities to observe and photograph them, so my trigger finger went a little crazy! :)

Here’s a fun sequence of photos as the kite saw a snail, flew overhead, snatched it from the water, flew off with it, and settled on a stick to eat it.  The Snail Kite’s beak is perfectly designed to pull the snail meat from the shell.

Snail Kite on the Hunt
Snail Kite on the Hunt – look at her feet all stretched out, ready to snatch up her prey
Snail Kite Snail Catch
Snail Kite Snail Catch – she grabs the snail with both feet, then switches it from left to right to left talon as she flies off
Snail Kite with Snail
Snail Kite with Apple Snail – a beautiful bird in her wetlands habitat.  The small pink clumps on the vegetation are apple snail eggs.
Snail Kite Tight Grip
Fly Away / Tight Grip – This bird needs to go to photography school, to learn that you’re not supposed to fly away from the camera!  But the view does show what a careful tight grip she keeps on the snail as she flies off.
V is for Victory! Breakfast Time
V is for Victory! Breakfast time is near as she settles on a branch to eat
Snail Kite Extracting Her Prey
Snail Kite Extracting Her Prey – yep, that beak is perfectly shaped for this bird’s needs
All Done! Toss the shell aside for someone to step on :)
All Done! Toss the shell aside.  My dad kept hearing “crunch!” as he stepped on discarded shells

Such a great morning with a great bird!  Later she was really nice to us and flew right by…

Snail Kite in Flight
Snail Kite in Flight

Apple Snail Paradise is, of course, home to another bird that loves apple snails, the Limpkin.  We lost count of the number of Limpkins we saw that morning.  I think my dad was actually a little happy to get away from their constant cries when we left!  I did get some photographs of Limpkins carrying snails, but they always flew away from me.  I’ll have to go back and get some better angles.

Apple Snail Paradise is also the home to some shy and beautiful birds, who don’t eat apple snails.  Say hello to the Wood Duck Trio! :)

Wood Ducks in Flight
Wood Ducks in Flight

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