Imagine cruising along on your airboat when wham! A huge brown bird bounces off your fan and onto the deck of the boat. Unfortunately, such a collision did happen to an immature female Snail Kite this fall. The boat captain delivered her directly into the care of our Raptor Trauma Center; when our veterinary team evaluated this bird — Snail Kite patient 669 — they found that she had spinal trauma and some leg paralysis. Both of those impairments cleared up quickly, but lasting injuries including a badly dislocated elbow and broken wing meant she will not be able to survive in the wild.
Snail Kites are federally endangered and, while historically their populations have been centered around Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, their range has been expanding. This is only the third Snail Kite admitted to the Center in the last decade., though a fourth came to the Center in early 2022.
Kites, in general, do not make very good patients because they don’t eat well on their own in the clinic setting. In addition, as their name suggests, Snail Kites’ diets consists of, you guessed it, snails. The Clinic always keeps some snails in the freezer, but traditional efforts to induce her appetite failed. Luckily, our innovative bird care team had an idea up their sleeve. In the wild, kites are social birds, and a little healthy competition can do wonders for a bird’s appetite. Once the team realized she could not be released they moved her into a mew with Gretel, a Swallow-tailed Kite and one of the Center’s Education Ambassadors. After two days together, the young Snail Kite finally ate a little bit of snail on her own.
We are encouraged by her resilience. We look forward to having her as part of our ambassador bird program, educating visitors and students about the Everglades ecosystem and the importance of Everglades restoration.