High on my wish list during my recent trip to Florida was Snail Kite- the last regularly occurring raptor species in the ABA area that I needed. My local host Jeff Bouton came through big, taking me to Lake Tohopekelija near Kissimee where a good population of these birds can be found. Although it is about at the northern end of their range, the colony there seems to be doing well and we saw about a dozen birds there. There's a nice little park (Brinson Park, I think) where Neptune Road crosses the northernmost part of the lake, offering vantage points both to the north and to the south over waters frequented by SNKIs. The best pass I had was by this immature bird:
In the next shot, the bird turned its head just right to see the long, hooked bill that it uses to extract snails from their shells. SNKIs will eat other prey, but rely on snails for their primary sustenance. There was also a territorial pair of adults patrolling around the marshy stuff to the north of Brinson Park. Here's a sequence of the male swinging up to confront an Osprey that made the mistake of flying over their airspace- the Osprey is dropping its talons defensively as the kite comes up from below. In a case of turnabout being fair play, Boat-tailed Grackles took exception to the male Snail Kite perching within their comfort zone- check out the dark dive-bombing blurs in this digi-vid:
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