Fun Snail Kite Facts For Kids

Oluniyi Akande
Jan 19, 2023 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Aug 09, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
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Fun Snail Kite Facts For Kids

Snail kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis), also called Everglade snail kites, are a raptor species that are in the same family of birds as hawks and eagles. They are unique from other raptors as they feed exclusively on freshwater apple snails.

The cooler of their plumage ranges from gray to brown. A female snail kite is slightly larger than the male birds. These species of birds have evolved entirely based on their food source.

Their range is is in the Florida Everglades, and Central and South America. The snail kite habitat is primarily freshwater marshes, wetlands, and lakes. Their bill is sharp and hooked to dig out the snail.

This species of bird can eat while it flies. There are no snail kite predators.

During nesting season, snail kites build their nest to lay eggs in the vegetation surrounding the marshes. Their eggs are white with brown splotches.

They are social birds, meaning they roost, nest, and preen in groups with other birds. Wildlife population decline of apple snails in Florida Everglades because of lowering water levels has led to decrease in the wildlife population of everglade snail kites. The conservation status of these birds is Endangered in Florida.

Included in this article is information such as snail kite's scientific name, snail kite hawk nests, and snail kite's young ones.

Learn about more interesting birds of prey in the raptor family like the swallow-tailed kite or the harpy eagle.

Snail Kite Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a snail kite?

A snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) is a raptor, also known as a bird of prey.

What class of animal does a snail kite belong to?

A snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) belongs to the class Aves, which are birds. They belong to the same family of birds like eagles, hawks, and vultures.

How many snail kites are there in the world?

The global population of Everglade snail kites is 2 million. In the wetlands of the Florida Everglades, the population of these birds is as low as 2,000.

Where does a snail kite live?

Snail kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis) nest in wetlands, lakes, and freshwater marshes. This is because their food is exclusively apple snails which live in freshwater. The Everglade snail kite range is only across the Americas. They nest in abundant numbers in tropical Central and South America. However, in North America, they only range in Florida in the Everglades wildlife.

What is a snail kite's habitat?

The Everglade snail kite habitat is defined by its primary source of food, apple snails. These birds nest in wetlands and freshwater sources such as marshes, ponds, lakes, and canals with surrounding small vegetation.

The water needs to be shallow enough for the kites to pluck the snail out of. There has to be some vegetation around for them to perch, roost, and build the nest to lay eggs on. This habitat is primarily found in the Florida Everglades, and Central and South America.

Who do snail kites live with?

As their name 'sociabilis' suggests, Everglade snail kites are social birds. During the day, they rest and preen together in groups with other water birds such as herons.

They gather at dusk to roost at the nest together. Even while nesting, they do so in loose colonies. They nest monogamously for a brood of eggs but may look for a different mate the next nesting season.

How long does a snail kite live?

Although the exact lifespan of snail kites is unknown, the oldest recorded Everglade snail kite was 14 years and eight months old and was found in Florida.

How do they reproduce?

Close to nesting season, males perform a series of flight displays for female snail kites as part of courting behavior. With sticks in their bills, they flap their wings in a slow, exaggerated behavior or swoop down with closed wings, performing aerial acrobatics.

Males present the females with food and sticks to court them. Sometimes males and females soar together in the air.

They like nesting in the vegetation in or around shallow lakes. The nesting habits of snail kites are also sociable. They build nests in loose colonies.

Female snail kites lay one to four eggs which are incubated for a month. The eggs are off-white with brown splotches and both males and females take turns incubating.

Young kites fledge for another six to seven weeks during which time both parents feed them apple snails. Sometimes during nesting, either parent may abandon the nest to breed with other kites.

What is their conservation status?

Globally, the conservation status for the snail kite bird is Least Concern. However, within Florida, they are considered to be Endangered because of the loss of their habitat.

The water levels of the wetlands of the Florida Everglades are being destroyed due to human behavior. This has resulted in the population of apple snails decreasing, which in turn has greatly reduced the wildlife population of everglade snail kites in Florida.

Snail Kite Fun Facts

What do snail kites look like?

The plumage of female snail kites is brown streaked with white and a white face, while that of the males is bluish-slate gray. Both have red eyes, white rumps, and broad rounded wings.

Their legs and the base of the bill are orange. Their bills are slender and sharply hooked, adapted to scoop the meat of the snail out from its shell. Young snail kites look similar to the females but with streaks on the crown.

The Snail Kite Bird

How cute are they?

This raptor species is not very cute. The only color it has is in the eyes and around the bill. The rest is gray, brown, or white. Young Everglade snail kites look similar to females.

How do they communicate?

When alarmed, this species of birds cry out 'ka-ka-ka-ka-ka' very fast. During nesting season, they sound like bleating sheep. Their bird call is low sounding and cannot be heard over long distances.

How big is a snail kite?

The length of Everglade snail kites can range between 14-19 in (35.5-48.2 cm). Females of this species are slightly larger than the males. Snail kites are half the size of a golden eagle.

How fast can a snail kite fly?

Everglade snail kites don’t need to fly very fast because their only food is apple snails. It flies slowly and close to the shallow water to catch its prey.

How much does a snail kite weigh?

The weight can range between 10.5-17.6 oz (300-500 g) depending on whether it is a male or female snail kite.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The names of males and females of this species are not different. Both birds are called a snail kite.

What would you call a baby snail kite?

Like other species of birds, young Everglade snail kites are called chicks.

What do they eat?

The Everglade snail kite diet is exclusively apple snails. This determines their habitat because they nest where they can easily prey on apple snails.

Their bills have evolved to help them eat these apple snails. It is slender and deeply hooked which helps them cut the muscle of the snail inside the shell to eat it. The kite flies slow and close to the water while hunting.

Are they dangerous?

Snail kites are not dangerous to anyone but their prey, apple snails. Their behavior has little impact on humans. The same cannot be said for human behavior because the snail kite Everglades are endangered in Florida.

Would they make a good pet?

No, snail kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis) would not make good pets. They are wild birds and need to live in spaces with open water and vegetation like marshes or lakes. It is even illegal in some places to keep them as pets.

Did you know...

Snail kites share their food source with another species of birds, the limpkin. However, both birds hunt differently. While kites hunt in shallow open water snatching the snail directly from the water, limpkins hunt in dense vegetation that surrounds the water. For this reason, both species can coexist peacefully in the same water space.

Is a snail kite a carnivore?

Yes, snail kites are carnivorous birds as their only food is apple snails. They have been known to feed on small turtles, fish, and crabs. This is only in instances where their habitat is destroyed to such an extent that they can't prey on apple snails.

Why is the everglade snail kite endangered?

Everglade snail kites exclusively eat the apple snail. These raptors need shallow open water to hunt for their prey.

The population of apple snails has been declining in the Florida Everglades because of low water levels. Excessive water drainage, pollution, and too many pesticides are the main factors. This scarcity of food and lowering water levels in the Florida Everglades is the primary reason Florida snail kites, also called Everglade snail kites, are endangered in Florida.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our Mississippi kite and red kite pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Snail Kite coloring pages.

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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