Elanoides forficatus - (Linnaeus, 1758)
Swallow-tailed Kite
Other English Common Names: swallow-tailed kite
Other Common Names: Gavião-Tesoura
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Elanoides forficatus (Linnaeus, 1758) (TSN 175289)
French Common Names: Milan à queue fourchue
Spanish Common Names: Milano Tijereta, Gavilán Tijereta
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105003
Element Code: ABNKC04010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Image 7719

© Larry Master

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Accipitriformes Accipitridae Elanoides
Genus Size: A - Monotypic genus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Elanoides forficatus
Taxonomic Comments: Morphological differences between E. f. forficatus and E. f. yetapa are slight and subspecific status of E. f. yetapa has been questioned (Robertson 1988). Formerly named "American Swallow-tailed Kite" (see AOU 1995).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 07Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 17Jan1997
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large range makes this species apparently secure on a global basis; trends in most of the range are poorly known; population appears to be increasing at the northern end of the range in the southeastern United States.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3B (19Mar1997)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S2), Arkansas (SNR), Florida (S2), Georgia (S2), Illinois (SX), Indiana (SXB), Iowa (SXB), Kansas (SXB), Kentucky (SXB,SNRN), Louisiana (S1S2B), Minnesota (SXB), Mississippi (S2B), Missouri (SX), Nebraska (SXB,SNRN), New Jersey (SNA), North Carolina (S1B), Ohio (SX), Oklahoma (SH), South Carolina (S2), Texas (S2B), Wisconsin (SXB)

Other Statuses

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R4 - Southeast
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix II

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Breeding range extends from South Carolina south to Florida, and west to Louisiana and east Texas; and from southeastern Mexico (Chiapas) south through Central America to eastern Peru, Bolivia, northern Argentina, Paraguay, and southeastern Brazil (Meyer 1995). The species is resident in South America from the Amazon Basin to Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname. Range in the United States has contracted; formerly the species bred north to Minnesota (Meyer 1995). During the nonbreeding season, this species occurs primarily in the northern half of South America, rarely in Central America or northward (Sibley and Monroe 1990, Meyer 1995, AOU 1998). See Palmer (1988) for detailed account of range.

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by probably hundreds of local breeding populations, though these are difficult to circumscribe. The U.S. populations has just a few (>=3) premigration staging areas.

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but presumably exceeds 100,000 (BirdLife International 2010).

The U.S. population comprises less than 10 percent of the global population (Meyer and Collopy 1990). Meyer (1995) estimated U.S. population at 800-1,150 pairs, or about 3,200-4,600 individuals at the end of the breeding season (Meyer and Collopy 1990). Florida probably supports 60-65% of the U.S. population (Meyer 1995). South Carolina's population, which lost more than 70% of known nesting habitat in 1989 because of Hurricane Hugo, has about 10-15% (or 110 pairs) of the total U.S. population; other southeastern states probably have fewer than 100 pairs each; no known data for other populations.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Many to very many (41 to >125)
Viability/Integrity Comments: The number of occurrences with good viability is not known but likely is at least a few dozen and may be much larger than that.

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Past decline of the U.S. population is attributed to prairie cultivation, wetland drainage, logging of forests, egg collecting, and indiscriminate shooting (Cely 1979, Meyer 1990, Meyer 1995).

Habitat alteration and loss continue at an accelerated pace in the United States. In Florida, most nesting and roosting habitat occurs on private land which is being converted to large-scale agriculture operations. Short-rotation, even-aged pine plantations reduce the number of tall, emergent trees required for nesting. Poor fire management can reduce habitat heterogeneity or reduce the number of nesting or roosting trees (Meyer and Collopy 1995). Threats along migration routes and on the winter range are unknown (Meyer and Collopy 1996).

Low (non-lethal) concentrations of mercury were found in tissues of two nestlings and three adults collected in Florida (Lee and Clark 1993, Meyer 1995). The significance of this as a threat is unknown.

Short-term Trend: Unknown
Short-term Trend Comments: Recent global trend is unknown.

Data from the 1990s did not allow an accurate assessment of recent population trends for the U.S. population, although it was clear the species was not experiencing the marked population increases exhibited by other kites (Meyer and Collopy 1996). Analyses of Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data were inconclusive. "A cautious assumption that population is stable, with local increases... and decreases" (Meyer 1995). More recently, based on BBS and Christmas Bird Count data, Butcher and Niven (2007) concluded that there is evidence of an increase in the U.S. population. Autumn migration counts around the Gulf of Mexico during 1995-2005 also documented increasing numbers of swallow-tailed kites (Smith et al. 2008) that could reflect a population increase or a shift in migration geography (Farmer et al. 2008).

Long-term Trend: Unknown
Long-term Trend Comments: Long-term global trend is unknown.

Populations declined significantly in the U.S. between 1880 and 1940 (Cely 1979). The U.S. breeding range once included an estimated 21 states, but is now restricted to portions of seven southeastern states (Meyer 1995). During the 1960s-1980s, many local nesting concentrations in Florida disappeared (Meyer and Collopy 1990).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Better information is needed on current range-wide distribution and abundance. In the United States, better information is needed on current status in states other than Florida.

Protection Needs: This species would benefit from acquisition of key breeding, foraging, and large roost sites.

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Breeding range extends from South Carolina south to Florida, and west to Louisiana and east Texas; and from southeastern Mexico (Chiapas) south through Central America to eastern Peru, Bolivia, northern Argentina, Paraguay, and southeastern Brazil (Meyer 1995). The species is resident in South America from the Amazon Basin to Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname. Range in the United States has contracted; formerly the species bred north to Minnesota (Meyer 1995). During the nonbreeding season, this species occurs primarily in the northern half of South America, rarely in Central America or northward (Sibley and Monroe 1990, Meyer 1995, AOU 1998). See Palmer (1988) for detailed account of range.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, FL, GA, IAextirpated, ILextirpated, INextirpated, KSextirpated, KYextirpated, LA, MNextirpated, MOextirpated, MS, NC, NEextirpated, NJ, OHextirpated, OK, SC, TX, WIextirpated

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WWF-US, 2000


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AL Baldwin (01003), Clarke (01025), Geneva (01061), Monroe (01099)
AR Arkansas (05001)
FL Alachua (12001), Bradford (12007), Charlotte (12015), Citrus (12017), Collier (12021), Columbia (12023), Dixie (12029), Escambia (12033), Franklin (12037), Glades (12043), Hamilton (12047), Hernando (12053), Highlands (12055), Jefferson (12065), Lafayette (12067), Lee (12071), Leon (12073), Levy (12075), Marion (12083), Monroe (12087), Nassau (12089), Palm Beach (12099), Pasco (12101), Polk (12105), Putnam (12107), Santa Rosa (12113), St. Johns (12109), Sumter (12119), Suwannee (12121), Taylor (12123), Wakulla (12129)
GA Brantley (13025), Brooks (13027), Bryan (13029), Bulloch (13031), Camden (13039), Charlton (13049), Chatham (13051), Clinch (13065), Echols (13101), Effingham (13103), Glynn (13127), Jeff Davis (13161), Liberty (13179), Long (13183), Lowndes (13185), Mcintosh (13191), Pierce (13229), Screven (13251), Wayne (13305), Wheeler (13309)
LA Beauregard (22011), Calcasieu (22019), East Baton Rouge (22033)*, Iberville (22047), Pointe Coupee (22077), St. Landry (22097), St. Martin (22099), St. Tammany (22103), Tangipahoa (22105), Washington (22117)
MS George (28039), Jackson (28059), Lawrence (28077), Pearl River (28109), Perry (28111), Stone (28131)*
NC Bladen (37017)
NE Holt (31089)*
SC Berkeley (45015)*, Charleston (45019)*, Colleton (45029), Dorchester (45035), Georgetown (45043)
TX Tyler (48457)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Lower Cape Fear (03030005)+, Waccamaw (03040206)+, Carolina Coastal-Sampit (03040207)+, Santee (03050112)+*, Cooper (03050201)+*, South Carolina Coastal (03050202)+, Four Hole Swamp (03050206)+, Lower Savannah (03060109)+, Lower Ogeechee (03060202)+, Canoochee (03060203)+, Ogeechee Coastal (03060204)+, Lower Oconee (03070102)+, Lower Ocmulgee (03070104)+, Altamaha (03070106)+, Satilla (03070201)+, Little Satilla (03070202)+, Cumberland-St. Simons (03070203)+, St. Marys (03070204)+, Nassau (03070205)+, Upper St. Johns (03080101)+, Oklawaha (03080102)+, Daytona - St. Augustine (03080201)+, Kissimmee (03090101)+, Western Okeechobee Inflow (03090103)+, Lake Okeechobee (03090201)+, Florida Bay-Florida Keys (03090203)+, Big Cypress Swamp (03090204)+, Caloosahatchee (03090205)+, Florida Southeast Coast (03090206)+, Crystal-Pithlachascotee (03100207)+, Withlacoochee (03100208)+, Waccasassa (03110101)+, Econfina-Steinhatchee (03110102)+, Aucilla (03110103)+, Upper Suwannee (03110201)+, Alapaha (03110202)+, withlacoochee (03110203)+, Little (03110204)+, Lower Suwannee (03110205)+, Santa Fe (03110206)+, Apalachee Bay-St. Marks (03120001)+, Lower Ochlockonee (03120003)+, Apalachicola (03130011)+, New (03130013)+, Upper Choctawhatchee (03140201)+, Pea (03140202)+, Escambia (03140305)+, Lower Alabama (03150204)+, Mobile - Tensaw (03160204)+, Lower Leaf (03170005)+, Pascagoula (03170006)+, Mississippi Coastal (03170009)+*, Middle Pearl-Silver (03180003)+, Lower Pearl. Mississippi (03180004)+, Bogue Chitto (03180005)+
08 Lower White (08020303)+, Amite (08070202)+*, Tangipahoa (08070205)+, Atchafalaya (08080101)+, Bayou Teche (08080102)+, West Fork Calcasieu (08080205)+, Liberty Bayou-Tchefuncta (08090201)+
10 Lower Niobrara (10150007)+*
12 Lower Sabine (12010005)+, Lower Neches (12020003)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A gregarious, 24-inch bird with forked tail, pointed wings, and a striking black and white pattern (Peterson 1980).
General Description: A slim diurnal raptor (hooked bill, strong talons) with narrow pointed wings and a black, strongly forked tail; head, breast, belly, and underwing coverts are white, flight feathers and back are black; young are streaked on the head and breast; average length 58 cm, wingspan 122 cm (NGS 1983).
Diagnostic Characteristics: No other sympatric bird has all of the following characteristics: white head and belly, black wings with white underwing coverts, and a deeply forked black tail.
Reproduction Comments: Nesting occurs in loose colonies, in groups of 2-5 nests, generally 75-700 meters apart (Meyer 1995). In south Florida, nearest nests averaged 673-730 meters apart (Meyer and Collopy 1995). Individuals often nest near sites that were used previously for nesting by swallow-tailed kites. In south Florida, 77 percent of nests sites were re-used and at 23.5 percent of these the original nest was re-used after being re-furbished. However, because birds were unmarked it is not known if sites were re-used by previous residents (Meyer and Collopy 1995).

Nesting occurs February-May in Costa rica and from early March-early June in the United States (Meyer 1995, Meyer and Collopy 1996, Stiles and Skutch 1989). Clutch size ranges from two to four eggs but is typically two (Terres 1991). The average of 151 U.S. clutches was 2.12 eggs, that of 11 Florida clutches was 1.91 eggs, and that of 18 Guatemala clutches was 1.83 eggs (Gerhardt et al. 1997, Meyer 1995). Incubation, conducted principally by the female, takes approximately 28 days in Florida and averages 31.5 days in Guatemala. Incubation begins when the first egg is laid and hatching is asynchronous (Gerhardt et al. 1997, Snyder 1974). The young are brooded by both sexes, although principally by the female. The nestling period is 36-42 days (Snyder 1974). There is no evidence of second-clutching even after nest or egg failure (Meyer 1995). Brood reduction sometimes occurs when younger nestlings starve or are killed outright by larger nestlings (Gerhardt et al. 1997, Meyer 1995).

Estimates of nesting success (percent of nests that fledged greater than or equal to 1 young) include 33 percent for Guatemala (Gerhardt et al. 1997), 41-80 percent for Florida (Meyer and Collopy 1995), and 72 percent for South Carolina (Cely and Sorrow 1990). Productivity estimates (number of young fledged per nest) for these same studies vary from 0.33 (Guatemala), 0.48-1.27 (Florida), to 1.14 (South Carolina). In Florida, nest success varied by species of nest tree: 78 percent for cypress, 60 percent for slash pine and 17 percent for Australian pine. In addition, nests in more flexible trees failed more often due to wind than nests in more rigid trees (Meyer and Collopy 1995).

Ecology Comments: This species roosts communally (up to 30 individuals) at night during the nesting period and prior to migration (Bensen 1992, Haverschmidt 1977, Millsap 1987, Meyer 1995, Meyer 1998, Meyer and Collopy 1995).

Potential predators, especially of eggs and young, include common crow, turkey vulture, black vulture, red-shouldered hawk, peregrine falcon, sharp-shinned hawk, bald eagle, osprey, short-tailed hawk, red-tailed hawk, great horned owl, barred owl, raccoon, and monkeys (Gerhardt et al. 1991, cited in Meyer 1995, Meyer and Collopy 1995, Short 1974, Snyder 1974).

Strong winds, especially those associated with storms, can blow young from the nest or topple tall trees used for nesting (Cely and Sorrow 1990, Snyder 1974).

Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: MIGRATION

Temperate and sub-tropical (U.S. and Central America) populations are migratory. Spring migrants begin arriving in the United States (Florida) in early-mid February; fall migrants leave from late July through early September (Meyer 1995, Stevenson and Anderson 1994). In Florida, large numbers (over 2,200) gather in pre-migratory roosts (Bensen 1992, Meyer 1995, Meyer 1998, Millsap 1987, Millsap and Runde 1988). One bird banded as a nestling on Key Largo, Florida was shot approximately 6,500 kilometers away in southeastern Brazil (Mager 1967).

In Costa Rica, migrants arrive between late December and February, and depart between July and September (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

Most individuals that breed in the United States migrates southward from Florida to the Yucatan Peninsula across the Gulf of Mexico. Others migrate around the Gulf Coast south through eastern Mexico (see Farmer et al. 2008).

Satellite and VHF telemetry data have revealed a narrow migration corridor through eastern Central America, western Colombia, and southeastward around the margins of the Amazon Basin to southwestern Brazil, where marked birds from the U.S. have been consistently found wintering to the north, south, and southeast of the Pantanal (K. Meyer, unpubl. data).

Wintering kites associate with conspecifics of the southern subspecies, E. f. yetapa, which are breeding at this time, and gather nightly in large communal roosts similar to the pre-migration roosts described in Florida (K. Meyer, unpubl. data).

HOME RANGE AND TERRITORY

This species forages up to 24 kilometers from the nest in South Carolina and 22 kilometers from the nest in south Florida (Cely and Sorrow 1990, Meyer and Collopy 1995). The home ranges of three adults in south Florida that did not make extended forays varied from 5.3-30.8 square kilometers; a fourth adult that made long forays ranged over 117.1 square kilometers (Meyer and Collopy 1995). In South Carolina, five adults ranged over an average of 232 square kilometers (range = 89.2-360.4 square kilometers). However, when long forays were ignored, home range size averaged 12.2 square kilometers (range = 4.9-17.1 square kilometers; Cely and Sorrow 1990). Pairs defend from conspecifics an area extending less than 100 meters away from the nest (Meyer 1995).

Estuarine Habitat(s): Scrub-shrub wetland
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Savanna, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: This species occupies diverse vegetation types, from sea level to elevations up to 1,850 meters; occasionally individuals wander up to 3,000 meters (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Key features of habitat include tall, accessible trees for nesting and open areas for foraging; arid areas are avoided (Meyer 1995). In the United States, nesting and foraging habitats include various pine forests and savannas, cypress swamps and savannas, cypress-hardwood swamps, hardwood hammocks, mangrove (Avicennia) swamps, narrow riparian forests, prairies, and freshwater and brackish marshes. In the tropics, this kite occurs in humid lowland and upland forests, riparian forests, cloud forests, and pine forests (Meyer 1995, Stiles and Skutch 1989).

Nests are near the tops of trees that are higher than the surrounding stand, presumably to provide easier access to the nest (Brown et al. 1997, Snyder 1974, Meyer 1995, Meyer and Collopy 1995). In south Florida, nest trees were significantly taller than random trees (Meyer and Collopy 1995). Nests most often are 8-38 meters above the ground (Brown et al. 1997, Snyder 1974, Stiles and Skutch 1989). The average nest height in South Carolina was 23 meters; in Florida mean nest height ranged from 18.2-21.7 meters (Cely and Sorrow 1990, Meyer and Collopy 1995).

Pines are the preferred nest trees. Of 151 U.S. nests, 86 percent were in pines, 7 percent in cypress (Taxodium spp.) and 7 percent in mangrove (Meyer 1995). Most nests in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana were in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda; Cely and Sorrow 1990, Meyer 1995). Elsewhere in Louisiana and Texas, nests have been found in cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and water oak (Quercus nigra; Brown et al. 1997, Meyer 1995). In south Florida, 51 percent of nests were in slash pine (Pinus elliottii), 37 percent in cypress, 12 percent in Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia) and 6 percent in bay (Persea spp.; Meyer 1995).

Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Swallow-tailed kites forage by soaring or by flying closely over or under the tree canopy, and over shrubs or grass. Sometimes they forage in large groups composed of 10 to more than 100 individuals. Prey are captured with the talons while in flight by snatching them in the air or off the surface of vegetation. Food items are principally insects (including entire wasp nests) but also include frogs, lizards, snakes, nestling birds and, less frequently, bats, fruit, hatchling alligators, and fish (Meyer 1995, Stevenson and Anderson 1994). Fruit consumption is apparently confined to the tropics (Buskirk and Lechner 1978, Lemke 1979, Stiles and Skutch 1989). In Florida, the stomachs of eight kites collected in mid-July contained 98.5 percent insects, and 2.5 percent arthropods and vertebrates including a spider (Araneae), a mite (Acarina), a green treefrog (Hyla cinerea), an anole (Anolis carolinensis), and a bat (Pipistrellus subflavus). The majority of insects eaten were grasshoppers (Orthoptera; 42.4 percent), leaf-footed bugs (Coreidae; 19.2 percent), and palmetto weevils (Rhynchophorus cruenlatus; 12.7 percent; Lee and Clark 1993).

Observations of kites feeding young in the nest suggest that vertebrates are important food items for nestlings. For example, Snyder (1974) found that insects comprised only 5 percent of the food fed to young in three nests in Florida, whereas 88 percent was comprised of vertebrates (principally hylid frogs). Likewise, insects comprised 27 percent of food fed to young in eight Florida nests, but vertebrates comprised 65 percent (mostly frogs; Meyer and Collopy 1995).

This kite drinks by skimming low over lakes, ponds, rivers, or marshes (Meyer 1995).

Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 58 centimeters
Weight: 475 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Population appears to have stabilized since 1940, although small changes in numbers occur locally (increasing or decreasing). This species is not experiencing the increase seen in other species of kites. An accurate method of assessing population trends needs to be developed. The species is threatened by extensive loss and alteration of breeding habitat, principally due to wetland drainage, agriculture, and short-rotation tree farming. Demographic studies and determination of threats on migration routes and winter range are urgently needed. Preservation of large tracts of heterogeneous habitat is necessary to ensure population recovery. In the United States, the most pressing need is to identify and protect privately owned nesting and roosting sites to ensure, at a minimum, persistence of the present small population.
Restoration Potential: Strong fidelity to nest and roost sites inhibits colonization of formerly occupied habitat (Meyer and Collopy 1996). Limited attempts to reintroduce this species to presently unoccupied former range have failed (Meyer 1990). Given the species' biology (e.g., strongly social, delayed breeding, mobile), reintroduction could be difficult, at best (Meyer 1995).
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Suitable nesting habitat requires appropriate nest and roost sites within a landscape that provides sufficient prey for successful reproduction. Habitat mosaics with various plant communities such as forests, prairies, and wetlands of various sizes, are essential. Minimum area requirements are difficult to define; where breeding habitat quality is good and prey is abundant and concentrated, 30 square kilometers may be sufficient, but where habitat quality is less suitable and prey is more diffuse, 100-300 square kilometers may be necessary (Meyer and Collopy 1995).
Management Requirements: Tall trees that emerge from the surrounding canopy are essential for nesting. Such trees should be managed for in landscapes dominated by short-rotation, even-aged pine plantations. Nests built in Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia), an exotic species, fail at a significantly higher rate than those in native pine (Pinus spp.) or cypress (Taxodium spp.). Where kites nest in large numbers, it may be prudent to reduce the availability of Australian pine as nest sites (Meyer 1990).
Monitoring Requirements: "Given the range of conservation threats to the species, rates of land-use change in its breeding range, and
the fragmented nature of the population, increased monitoring is needed. Conservation and monitoring at critical habitats, including long-term nesting, roosting, and migration-stopover sites, also should be considered." (Farmer et al. 2008).

Counts of large, pre-migratory roosts in Florida could be conducted annually to access population trends and reproductive output (Meyer 1998, Millsap 1987, Millsap and Runde 1988).

The relatively early departure of kites from North America means that many birds are not detected as hawkwatch sites that begin their counts in mid-August (Farmer et al. 2008).


Management Programs: Collaborative efforts with Brazilian conservationists are ongoing to protect native habitats at the critical wintering and breeding sites, which are all privately owned agricultural lands (K. Meyer, pers. comm.).
Monitoring Programs: This species is monitored on North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) routes (Sauer et al. 1997) and irregularly by state wildlife agencies (Millsap and Runde 1988). In Florida, systematic state-wide roost observations would form a good basis for long-term monitoring (K. Meyer, pers. comm.).
Management Research Needs: An accurate means of assessing population changes needs to be developed. Also, nesting and foraging habitat requirements need to be defined, winter habitat requirements need to be determined, prey densities essential for reproductive success need to be examined, and a study of marked individuals is needed to determine age at first breeding, sex ratio, survival, and social behavior (Meyer 1990, Meyer and Collopy 1995).
Biological Research Needs: Better information is needed on demography, migration routes winter biology, and habitat needs. The validity of subspecies designation needs to be examined since this may influence listing status (Meyer 1995).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Hawks and Falcons

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Feeding Area, Nest Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.
Mapping Guidance: If nest site is separated from feeding area by more than 100 meters, map as separate polygons.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance a compromise between usually relatively small home ranges and obvious mobility of these birds. Home ranges variable, ranging from about 0.5 to about 90 square kilometers; the latter figure refers to nests where birds commuted some distance to feeding grounds. A number of studies give mean home ranges on the order of 7 square kilometers, which equates to a circle with a diameter of about 3 kilometers; three times that home range gives a separation distance of about 10 kilometers. Home ranges: Ferruginous Hawk, mean 5.9 square kilometers in Utah (Smith and Murphy 1973); range 2.4 to 21.7 square kilometers, mean 7.0 square kilometers in Idaho (Olendorff 1993); mean 7.6 square kilometers in Idaho (McAnnis 1990); mean 90 square kilometers in Washington (Leary et al. 1998); Red-tailed Hawk, most forage within 3 kilometers of nest (Kochert 1986); mean spring and summer male home ranges 148 hectares (Petersen 1979); Hawaiian Hawk, 48 to 608 hectares (n = 16; Clarkson and Laniawe 2000); Zone-tailed Hawk, little information, apparent home range 1-2 kilometers/pair in west Texas (Johnson et al. 2000); White tailed Kite, rarely hunts more than 0.8 kilometers from nest (Hawbecker 1942); Prairie Falcon, 26 square kilometers in Wyoming (Craighead and Craighead 1956), 59 to 314 square kilometers (reported by Steenhof 1998); Aplomado Falcon, 2.6 to 9.0 square kilometers (n = 5, Hector 1988), 3.3 to 21.4 square kilometers (n = 10, Montoya et al. 1997). Nest site fidelity: high in Zone-tailed Hawk; all seven west Texas nesting territories occupied in 1975 were reused in 1976 (Matteson and Riley 1981). Swainson's Hawk: In California, dispersal distances from natal sites to subsequent breeding sites ranged from 0 to 18 kilometers, mean 8.8 kilometers (Woodbridge et al. 1995); in contrast, none of 697 nestlings in Saskatchewan returned to the study area; three were found 190, 200 and 310 kilometers away (Houston and Schmutz 1995).
Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 3 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Foraging range variable; 3 kilometers is the mean diameter in several species.
Date: 13Mar2001
Author: Cannings, S.

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging area, Roosting area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of wintering birds (including historical); and potential recurring presence at a given location, usually minimally a reliable observation of 5 birds (this can be reduced to 1 individual for rarer species). Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 20 days annually. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary; set at 10 kilometers to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. However, occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of foraging birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Date: 15Apr2002
Author: Cannings, S.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 16Sep2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Palis, J., M. L. Evans, M. Koenen, D. W. Mehlman, S. Cannings, and G. Hammerson
Management Information Edition Date: 17Sep2010
Management Information Edition Author: Palis, J., M. Koenen, D. W. Mehlman, and G. Hammerson
Management Information Acknowledgments: The author thanks Dr. Kenneth Meyer for his thoughtful review and sharing his unpublished observations. Funding for the preparation of this abstract was made possible by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Endangered Species.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 17Sep2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Palis, J., G. Hammerson, M. Koenen, and D. W. Mehlman

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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