This article is about a single species of tortoise. For related species in North America that are called gopher tortoises, see Gopherus The gopher tortoise is a species of the Gopherus genus native to the southeastern United States; the gopher tortoise is seen as a keystone species because it digs burrows that provide shelter for at least 360 other animal species. They are threatened by habitat destruction; the gopher tortoise is a representative of the genus Gopherus, which contains the only tortoises native to North America. This species of gopher tortoise is the state tortoise of Florida; the gopher tortoise is a large terrestrial reptile which possesses forefeet well adapted for burrowing, elephantine hind feet. These features are common to most tortoises; the front legs have scales to protect the tortoise while burrowing. They are dark brown to gray-black with a yellow plastron. A gular projection is evident on the anterior plastron. Sexual dimorphism is evident, with male gopher tortoises having concave plastrons, while those of females are flat.
In addition, the gular projection on male plastrons is longer than in females. Carapace length can range with a height of 15 -- 37 cm. Body mass averages 4 kg, with a range of 2–6 kg. Gopher tortoises are herbivore scavengers, their diets contains over 300 species of plants. They consume a wide range of plants, but eat broad-leaved grass, regular grass and terrestrial legumes, they eat mushrooms, fruits such as gopher apple, pawpaw and saw palmetto berries. In addition, gopher tortoises eat flowers from the genera Cnidoscolus, Tillandsia and Dyschoriste. Juvenile tortoises tend to eat more legumes, which are higher in protein, fewer grasses and tough, fibrous plants than mature tortoises. Gopher tortoises have been known to eat excrement; as gopher tortoises get water from the food they eat, they only drink standing water in times of extreme drought. Gopher tortoises, like other tortoises of the genus Gopherus, are known for their digging ability. Gopher tortoises spend most of their time in long burrows, up to 14.5 metres in length and 3 metres deep.
In these burrows, the tortoises are protected from summer heat, winter cold and predators. The burrows are common in longleaf pine savannas, where the tortoises are the primary grazers, playing an essential role in their ecosystem. Except during breeding season, gopher tortoises are solitary animals. Within their range they dig several burrows. On average, each gopher tortoise needs about 4 acres to live. Sexual reproduction involves courtship rituals. During the mating season between April and November, females lay their eggs in the open; the sex of the eggs is determined by the temperature where they are incubated in a nest laid below sand. If the sand is over 30 degrees Celsius, it's a female and if below 30 degrees Celsius, the egg is a male. Incubation period can last from 110 days in South Carolina. Gopher tortoises can live more than 40 years. One current specimen, has been living continuously in captivity at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax for 75 years as of 2018 and is believed to have hatched between 1920 and 1925.
Additionally, there are journalistic reports of a specimen in North Texas with a verified age of 75–78 years old. The gopher tortoise reaches maturity at about 10–15 years of age, when their shells are around 9 inches long, they may mate from February with a peak throughout May and June. Females may lay clutches of 3–14 eggs, depending on body size, in a sandy mound close to the entrance of their burrow. Ninety percent of clutches may be destroyed by predators such as armadillos, foxes and alligators before the eggs hatch, less than 6% of eggs are expected to grow into tortoises that live one year or more after hatching. Since July 7, 1987, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed Gopherus polyphemus as "Threatened" wherever the tortoises are found west of the Mobile and Tombigbee Rivers in Alabama and Louisiana, its status is listed as "Under Review" in Florida and in other locations. On November 9, 2009, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed rulemaking to include the eastern population of Gopherus polyphemus in the List of Threatened Wildlife.
G. polyphemus appears on the IUCN Red List as a "Vulnerable" species. In July 2011, United States Fish & Wildlife Service determined that listing the eastern population of the tortoise as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act is warranted, however, it is precluded from doing so at this time due to higher priority actions and a lack of sufficient funds to commence proposed rule development. In the interim period of time the USFWS will place the eastern population of the tortoise on its candidate species list until sufficient funding is available to initiate a proposed listing rule; the University of Florida Conservation Clinic Center for Governmental Responsibility Levin College of Law describe five main threats to the tortoise population, they are: Habitat loss through human development, habitat loss through poor supervision, human desire to use it as a pet or meat, relocation causing popu
North American river otter
The North American river otter known as the northern river otter or the common otter, is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to the North American continent found in and along its waterways and coasts. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 14 kg; the river otter is insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur. The North American river otter, a member of the subfamily Lutrinae in the weasel family, is versatile in the water and on land, it establishes a burrow close to the water's edge in river, swamp, coastal shoreline, tidal flat, or estuary ecosystems. The den has many tunnel openings, one of which allows the otter to enter and exit the body of water. Female North American river otters give birth in these underground burrows, producing litters of one to six young. North American river otters, like most predators, prey upon the most accessible species. Fish is a favored food among the otters, but they consume various amphibians, freshwater clams, snails, small turtles and crayfish.
The most common fish consumed are perch and catfish. Instances of North American river otters eating small mammals, such as mice and squirrels, birds have been reported as well. There have been some reports of river otters attacking and drowning dogs; the range of the North American river otter has been reduced by habitat loss, beginning with the European colonization of North America. In some regions, their population is controlled to allow the trapping and harvesting of otters for their pelts. North American river otters are susceptible to the effects of environmental pollution, a factor in the continued decline of their numbers. A number of reintroduction projects have been initiated to help halt the reduction in the overall population; the North American river otter was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1777. The mammal was identified as a species of otter and has a variety of common names, including North American river otter, northern river otter, common otter and river otter.
Other documented common names are American otter, Canada otter, Canadian otter, fish otter, land otter, nearctic river otter, Prince of Wales otter. The North American river otter was first classified in the genus Lutra; the species name was Lutra canadensis. The species epithet canadensis means "of Canada". In a new classification, the species is called Lontra canadensis, where the genus Lontra includes all the New World river otters. Molecular biological techniques have been used to determine when the river otter and the giant otter of South America diverged; these analyses suggest they diverged in the Miocene epoch 23.03 to 5.33 million years ago, "much earlier" than indicated in the fossil record. Fossils of a giant river otter dating back 3.5 Mya have been found in the US Midwest. The earliest known fossil of Lontra canadensis, found in the US Midwest, is from the Irvingtonian stage; the oldest fossil record of an Old World river otter comes from the late Pliocene epoch. The New World river otters originated from the Old World river otters after a migration across the Bering Land Bridge, which existed off and on between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago.
The otters migrated to North America and southwards again across the Panamanian Land Bridge, which formed 3 Mya. Listed alphabetically L. c. canadensis – L. c. kodiacensis – L. c. lataxina – L. c. mira – L. c. pacifica – L. c. periclyzomae – L. c. sonora – The North American river otter is a stocky animal of 5 to 14 kilograms, with short legs, a muscular neck no smaller than the head, an elongated body, broadest at the hips. They have long bodies, long whiskers that are used to detect prey in dark waters. An average adult male weighs about 11.3 kilograms against the female's average of 8.3 kilograms. Its body length ranges from 66 to 107 centimetres. About one-third of the animal's total length consists of a long, tapered tail. Tail lengths range from 30 to 50 centimetres. Large male North American river otters can exceed a weight of 15 kilograms, it differs from the European otter by its longer neck, narrower visage, the smaller space between the ears and its shorter tail. A broad muzzle is found on the North American river otter's flat head, the ears are round and inconspicuous.
The rhinarium is bare, with an triangular projection. Eyes placed anteriorly. A short, broad rostrum for exhaling and a long, broad cranium define the flat skull; the North American river otter's nostrils and ears close during submersion, keeping water from entering them. Its vibrissae are thick, enhancing sensory perception underwater and on land; the fur of the species is short, with a density of about 57,800 hairs/cm2 in the midback section. The pelage varies from light brown to black; the throat and lips are grayer than the rest of the body. Fur of senescent river otters may become white-tipped, rare albinos may
The calidrids or typical waders are a group of Arctic-breeding migratory wading birds. These birds form huge mixed flocks on estuaries in winter, they are the typical "sandpipers", small to medium-sized, long-winged and short-billed. Their bills have sensitive tips which contain numerous Corpuscles of Herbst, enabling the birds to locate buried prey items, which they seek with restless running and probing; as some calidrids share the common name "sandpiper" with more distantly related birds such as the Actitis species, the term stint is preferred in Britain for the smaller species of this group. The calidrids' closest relatives are the two species of turnstone, if the calidrids were to be considered one or two tribes Calidriini and/or Arenariini, and/or subfamily Eroliinae, the turnstones would be included in it. A fossil bone, a distal piece of tarsometatarsus, was found in the Edson Beds of Sherman County, Kansas. Dating from the mid-Blancan some 3-4 million years ago, it appears to be from a calidrid somewhat similar to a pectoral sandpiper, but has some traits reminiscent of turnstones.
Depending on which traits are apomorphic and plesiomorphic, it may be an ancestral representative of either lineage. It might belong to some distinct prehistoric genus, as true calidriid sandpipers seem to have been present earlier; the interrelationships of the calidrid group are not altogether well resolved. Several former genera have been included in Calidris, such as the stilt sandpiper, but the new placement was not satisfactory, it was suggested, for example, that the sanderling should be placed into a monotypic genus Crocethia, the other small Calidris species separated as Erolia. Alternatively, it was suggested that the monotypic Aphriza and Eurynorhynchus be merged into Calidris. A comprehensive analysis in 2004 – based on newly available DNA sequence data – indicated that the extended Calidris is indeed paraphyletic, but found the present DNA sequence data insufficient to resolve the relationships of some more unusual taxa such as the curlew sandpiper. In addition, it is known that the calidriid lineages are able to hybridize to a considerable extent and in the past, this was even more frequent and more hybrids would have been viable.
The species, according to the 2017 I. O. C. Assessment, are as follows: Genus Calidris Surfbird, Calidris virgata Great knot, Calidris tenuirostris Red knot, Calidris canutus Sanderling, Calidris alba Semipalmated sandpiper, Calidris pusilla Western sandpiper, Calidris mauri Red-necked stint, Calidris ruficollis Little stint, Calidris minuta Temminck's stint, Calidris temminckii Long-toed stint, Calidris subminuta Least sandpiper, Calidris minutilla White-rumped sandpiper, Calidris fuscicollis Baird's sandpiper, Calidris bairdii Pectoral sandpiper, Calidris melanotos Sharp-tailed sandpiper, Calidris acuminata Curlew sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea Purple sandpiper, Calidris maritima Rock sandpiper, Calidris ptilocnemis Dunlin, Calidris alpina Stilt sandpiper, Calidris himantopus Spoon-billed sandpiper, Calidris pygmeus Broad-billed sandpiper, Calidris falcinellus Buff-breasted sandpiper, Calidris subruficollis Ruff, Calidris pugnaxAs mentioned above, there exists some material of birds identical to calidrid sandpipers from before the Pleistocene.
An undescribed species is known from the Early Miocene of Dolnice. Tringa gracilis and Tringa minor from the Middle Miocene of Grive-Saint-Alban are scolopacids of rather uncertain affiliations. Cox's sandpiper Hybridisation in shorebirds RedKnot.org links to shorebird recovery sites, movies and other information on red knot rufa and horseshoe crabs
The wood stork is a large American wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It was called the "wood ibis", though it is not an ibis, it is found in subtropical and tropical habitats including the Caribbean. In South America, it is resident. Described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, this stork evolved in tropical regions; the head and neck are dark grey in colour. The plumage is white, with the exception of the tail and some of the wing feathers, which are black with a greenish-purplish sheen; the juvenile differs from the adult, with the former having a feathered head and a yellow bill, compared to the black adult bill. The sexes are similar; the habitat of the wood stork can vary, but it must have a tropical or subtropical climate with fluctuating water levels. The one metre in diameter nest is found in trees mangroves and those of the genus Taxodium surrounded by water or over water; the wood stork nests colonially. The nest itself is made from greenery. During the breeding season, initiated when the water levels drop and can occur anytime between November and August, a single clutch of three to five eggs is laid.
These are incubated for around 30 days, the chicks hatch altricial. They fledge 60 to 65 days after hatching, although only about 31% of nests fledge a chick in any given year, with most chicks dying during their first two weeks, despite being watched by an adult during that time; the chicks are fed fish of increasing size. The diet of the adult changes throughout the year. During the dry season and insects are eaten, compared to the addition of frogs and crabs during the wet season; because it forages by touch, it needs shallow water to catch food. This is the reason why the wood stork breeds when water levels start to fall. Globally, the wood stork is considered to be of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; this is due to its large range. In the United States, on the other hand, it is considered to be threatened. Predators of the wood stork include raccoons, which predate chicks, northern crested caracaras, which prey on eggs, other birds of prey, which feed on both eggs and chicks.
Hunting and egg-collecting by humans has been implicated as a factor in the decline of South American wood storks. Humans cause nest failures through ecotourism, although observation through binoculars about 75 metres away does not have a large effect on nesting success. In both North and South America, habitat alteration has caused the wood stork to decline, with levee and drainage systems in the Everglades causing a shift in the timing of breeding and thus a decrease in breeding success; the wood stork was first formally described and given its binomial name Mycteria americana by Linnaeus in 1758. Linnaeus based his description on a misplaced account and illustration in Historia Naturalis Brasiliae of the jabiru-guacu. Linnaeus described Tantalus loculator, proven to apply to the jabiru-guacu, after M. americana based on a 1731 illustration of the wood stork by Mark Catesby under the name of wood pelican. Since these binomials referred to the same species, M. americana and T. loculator are synonymous but M. americana takes priority as it occurs before T. loculator.
The accepted genus name derives from the Greek mykter, meaning snout, the species name references the distribution of this stork. This species seems to have evolved in tropical regions. A fossil fragment from the Touro Passo Formation found at Arroio Touro Passo might be of the living species. North American fossils from that time are of an extinct larger relative, M. wetmorei, which would be distinguished from the wood on the basis of size and on the basis of M. wetmorei's less curved mandible. This was a sister species. Of the extant members of the genus Mycteria, this bird is basal to the clade yellow-billed stork, itself basal to the milky stork and the painted stork; this phylogeny is based on a 1996 study that sequenced the B chromosome and utilized DNA–DNA hybridization to find the relations between the storks. Because of its decurved bill, the wood stork has been called the "wood ibis", although it is not an ibis, it has been given the name of the "American wood stork", because it is found in the Americas.
Regional names include "flinthead", "stonehead", "ironhead", "gourdhead", "preacher". The adult wood stork is a large bird which stands 83 to 115 cm tall with a wingspan of 140 to 180 cm; the male weighs 2.5 to 3.3 kg, with a mean weight of 2.7 kg. Another estimate puts the mean weight at 2.64 kg. The head and neck of the adult are bare, the scaly skin is a dark grey; the black downward-curved bill is long and wide at the base. The plumage is white, with the primaries and tail being black and having a greenish and purplish iridescence; the legs and feet are dark, the flesh-coloured toes are pink during the breeding season. The sexes are similar. Newly hatched chicks have a sparse coat of grey down, replaced by a dense and white down in about 10 days. Chicks grow fast. By the sixth and seventh weeks, the plumage on the head and neck turns smokey grey; when fle
The bald eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. A sea eagle, it forms a species pair with the white-tailed eagle, its range includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the contiguous United States, northern Mexico. It is found near large bodies of open water with an abundant food supply and old-growth trees for nesting; the bald eagle is an opportunistic feeder which subsists on fish, which it swoops down and snatches from the water with its talons. It builds the largest nest of any North American bird and the largest tree nests recorded for any animal species, up to 4 m deep, 2.5 m wide, 1 metric ton in weight. Sexual maturity is attained at the age of four to five years. Bald eagles are not bald; the adult is brown with a white head and tail. The sexes are identical in plumage; the beak is hooked. The plumage of the immature is brown; the bald eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the United States of America. The bald eagle appears on its seal. In the late 20th century it was on the brink of extirpation in the contiguous United States.
Populations have since recovered and the species was removed from the U. S. government's list of endangered species on July 12, 1995 and transferred to the list of threatened species. It was removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in the Lower 48 States on June 28, 2007; the plumage of an adult bald eagle is evenly dark brown with a white tail. The tail is moderately long and wedge-shaped. Males and females are identical in plumage coloration, but sexual dimorphism is evident in the species, in that females are 25% larger than males; the beak and irises are bright yellow. The legs are feather-free, the toes are short and powerful with large talons; the developed talon of the hind toe is used to pierce the vital areas of prey while it is held immobile by the front toes. The beak is hooked, with a yellow cere; the adult bald eagle is unmistakable in its native range. The related African fish eagle has a brown body, white head and tail, but differs from the bald in having a white chest and black tip to the bill.
The plumage of the immature is a dark brown overlaid with messy white streaking until the fifth year, when it reaches sexual maturity. Immature bald eagles are distinguishable from the golden eagle, the only other large, non-vulturine raptorial bird in North America, in that the former has a larger, more protruding head with a larger beak, straighter edged wings which are held flat and with a stiffer wing beat and feathers which do not cover the legs; when seen well, the golden eagle is distinctive in plumage with a more solid warm brown color than an immature bald eagle, with a reddish-golden patch to its nape and a contrasting set of white squares on the wing. Another distinguishing feature of the immature bald eagle over the mature bird is its black, yellow-tipped beak; the bald eagle has sometimes been considered the largest true raptor in North America. The only larger species of raptor-like bird is the California condor, a New World vulture which today is not considered a taxonomic ally of true accipitrids.
However, the golden eagle, averaging 4.18 kg and 63 cm in wing chord length in its American race, is 455 g lighter in mean body mass and exceeds the bald eagle in mean wing chord length by around 3 cm. Additionally, the bald eagle's close cousins, the longer-winged but shorter-tailed white-tailed eagle and the overall larger Steller's sea eagle, may wander to coastal Alaska from Asia; the bald eagle has a body length of 70–102 cm. Typical wingspan is between 1.8 and 2.3 m and mass is between 3 and 6.3 kg. Females are about 25% larger than males, averaging as much as 5.6 kg, against the males' average weight of 4.1 kg. The size of the bird varies by location and corresponds with Bergmann's rule, since the species increases in size further away from the Equator and the tropics. For example, eagles from South Carolina average 3.27 kg in mass and 1.88 m in wingspan, smaller than their northern counterparts. One field guide in Florida listed small sizes for bald eagles there, at about 4.13 kg. Of intermediate size, 117 migrant bald eagles in Glacier National Park were found to average 4.22 kg but this was juvenile eagles, with 6 adults here averaging 4.3 kg.
Wintering eagles in Arizona were found to average 4.74 kg. The largest eagles are from Alaska, where large females may weigh more than 7 kg and span 2.44 m across the wings. A survey of adult weights in Alaska showed that females there weighed on average 5.35 kg and males weighed 4.23 kg against immatures which averaged 5.09 kg and 4.05 kg in the two sexes. An Alaskan adult female eagle, considered outsized we
The white-tailed deer known as the whitetail or Virginia deer, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America as far south as Peru and Bolivia. It has been introduced to New Zealand, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles, some countries in Europe, such as Finland, the Czech Republic and Serbia. In the Americas, it is the most distributed wild ungulate. In North America, the species is distributed east of the Rocky Mountains as well as in most of Mexico, aside from Lower California, in southwestern Arizona. IIt is replaced by the black-tailed or mule deer from that point west. However, it is found in mixed deciduous riparian corridors, river valley bottomlands, lower foothills of the northern Rocky Mountain region from South Dakota west to eastern Washington and eastern Oregon and north to northeastern British Columbia and southern Yukon, including in the Montana Valley and Foothill grasslands; the conversion of land adjacent to the Canadian Rockies into agriculture use and partial clear-cutting of coniferous trees has been favorable to the white-tailed deer and has pushed its distribution to as far north as Yukon.
Populations of deer around the Great Lakes have expanded their range northwards, due to conversion of land to agricultural uses favoring more deciduous vegetation, local caribou and moose populations. The westernmost population of the species, known as the Columbian white-tailed deer, once was widespread in the mixed forests along the Willamette and Cowlitz River valleys of western Oregon and southwestern Washington, but today its numbers have been reduced, it is classified as near-threatened; this population is separated from other white-tailed deer populations. Some taxonomists have attempted to separate white-tailed deer into a host of subspecies, based on morphological differences. Genetic studies, suggest fewer subspecies within the animal's range, as compared to the 30 to 40 subspecies that some scientists described in the last century; the Florida Key deer, O. v. clavium, the Columbian white-tailed deer, O. v. leucurus, are both listed as endangered under the U. S. Endangered Species Act.
In the United States, the Virginia white-tail, O. v. virginianus, is among the most widespread subspecies. The white-tailed deer species has tremendous genetic variation and is adaptable to several environments. Several local deer populations in the southern states, are descended from white-tailed deer transplanted from various localities east of the Continental Divide; some of these deer populations may have been from as far north as the Great Lakes region to as far west as Texas, yet are quite at home in the Appalachian and Piedmont regions of the south. These deer, over time, have intermixed with the local indigenous deer populations. Central and South America have a complex number of white-tailed deer subspecies that range from Guatemala to as far south as Peru; this list of subspecies of deer is more exhaustive than the list of North American subspecies, the number of subspecies is questionable. However, the white-tailed deer populations in these areas are difficult to study, due to overhunting in many parts and a lack of protection.
Some areas no longer carry deer, so assessing the genetic difference of these animals is difficult. Some subspecies names, ordered alphabetically: O. v. acapulcensis – Acapulco white-tailed deer O. v. borealis – northern white-tailed deer O. v. carminis – Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer O. v. clavium – Key deer or Florida Keys white-tailed deer O. v. chiriquensis – Chiriqui white-tailed deer O. v. couesi – Coues' white-tailed deer, Arizona white-tailed deer, or fantail deer O. v. dakotensis – Dakota white-tailed deer or northern plains white-tailed deer O. v. hiltonensis – Hilton Head Island white-tailed deer O. v. idahoensis – white-tailed deer O. v. leucurus – Columbian white-tailed deer O. v. macrourus – Kansas white-tailed deer O. v. mcilhennyi – Avery Island white-tailed deer O. v. mexicanus – Mexican white-tailed deer O. v. miquihuanensis – Miquihuan white-tailed deer O. v. nelsoni – Chiapas white-tailed deer O. v. nigribarbis – Blackbeard Island white-tailed deer O. v. oaxacensis – Oaxaca white-tailed deer O. v. ochrourus – northwestern white-tailed deer or northern Rocky Mountains white-tailed deer O. v. osceola – Florida coastal white-tailed deer O. v. rothschildi – Coiba Island white-tailed deer O. v. seminolus – Florida white-tailed deer O. v. sinaloae – Sinaloa white-tailed deer O. v. taurinsulae – Bulls Island white-tailed deer O. v. texanus – Texas white-tailed deer O. v. thomasi – Mexican lowland white-tailed deer O. v. toltecus – rain forest white-tailed deer O. v. truei – Central American white-tailed deer O. v. venatorius – Hunting Island white-tailed deer O. v. veraecrucis – northern Veracruz white-tailed deer O. v. virginianus – Virginia white-tailed deer or southern white-tailed deer O. v. yucatanensis – Yucatán white-tailed deer O. v. cariacou – O. v. curassavicus
For the African species, see African swallow-tailed kite The swallow-tailed kite is a pernine raptor which breeds from the southeastern United States to eastern Peru and northern Argentina. It is the only species in the genus Elanoides. Most North and Central American breeders winter in South America where the species is resident year round, it was named Falco forficatus. The swallow-tailed kite was first described as the "swallow-tail hawk" and "accipiter cauda furcata" by the English naturalist Mark Catesby in 1731, it was given the binomial scientific name Falco forficatus by Carl Linnaeus in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae, published in 1758. The latter spelling was used during the 18th and 19th centuries, but the original spelling has precedence; the genus Elanoides was introduced by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1818. The name is from Ancient Greek elanos for "kite" and -oides for "resembling"; the species is 50 to 68 cm in length, with a wingspan of 1.12–1.36 m.
Male and female individuals appear similar. The body weight is 310–600 g; the body is a contrasting deep white. The flight feathers, feet, bill are all black. Another characteristic is the elongated, forked tail at 27.5–37 centimetres long, hence the name swallow-tailed. The wings are relatively elongated, as the wing chord measures 39–45 cm; the tarsus is short for the size of the bird at 3.3 cm. Young swallow-tailed kites are duller in color than the adults, the tail is not as forked; the Swallow Tailed Kite is associated with large tracts of wetland forests which accommodates the birds nesting habits. Loblolly pines are the most prevalent choice for building nests but bald cypress are used when the pines are unavailable; the major requirement of these nesting sites are tree height. Nesting locations are found in trees as high as 100ft. Historic ranges in the United States covered the majority of the Southern states and much of the Midwest. Aside from the US, it resides in many areas throughout South America.
Habitat degradation and changes in wetland hydrology have caused the range to shrink in the US to just coastal regions of the southeastern and southwestern US an 80% decline in population. Swallow-Tailed kites are considered migratory raptors and during the spring months move from areas in Central and South America to breed. 3% of the worlds population breed in the United States. Traveling thousands of miles these birds move towards the most suitable nesting habitat found within coastal wetlands between the Americas. Satellite-telemetry has allowed researchers to track movements of individual birds over the years and has yielded data that demonstrates some migration journeys longer than 10,000 miles. Land located within migration routes is thought to be another concern for the kites, as deforestation and habitat degradation in Central and South Americas can have adverse affects as the birds move to breed; the birds are considered one of the most graceful fliers seen in America and spend the majority of their lives scouring high tree tops for lizards, small mammals, insects.
The morphology of the Swallow-Tailed kite's wing and tail structure allows the bird to glide effortlessly for long distances. Sometimes a high-pitched chirp is emitted, though the birds remain silent; the swallow-tailed kite feeds on small reptiles, such as lizards. It may feed on small amphibians such as frogs, it has been observed to consume fruit in Central America. It drinks by collecting water in its beak; the bird does not break flight during feeding. Mating occurs from March with the female laying 2 to 4 eggs. Incubation lasts 28 days, 36 to 42 days to fledge. Thought to form monogamous pairs, the birds are thought to spend some time apart and meet up during migrations to nesting locations; these nesting locations are found in the highest trees in wetland areas. On occasion, pairs will return to the same nesting locations of the previous years and refurbish old nests. Nests take about four days to complete. Swallow-tailed kites are not listed as endangered or threatened by the federal government in the United States.
They are listed as endangered by the state of South Carolina and as threatened by the state of Texas. They are listed as "rare" by the state of Georgia; the Center for Birds of Prey in Charleston, SC has an ongoing effort to track sightings within the state. Anonymous reports can be made by telephone, they will send you the summary of the years reported sightings if you leave them your contact information. Destruction of habitats is chiefly responsible for the decline in numbers. A key conservation area is the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida; as of 2016, populations have seemed to stabilize and show increasing trends. Successful habitat restoration and management has allowed these birds to reestablish nesting populations on areas of Georgia and South Carolina. SourcesStiles and Skutch, A guide to the birds of Costa Rica ISBN 0-8014-9600-4Notes "American Swallow-tailed Kite media". Internet Bird Collection. 5 pictures of Swallow-tailed Kites at amazilia.net Stamps with Range Map at bird-stamps.org Swallow-tailed Kite photo gallery at VIREO Photo of soar