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Swallow-tailed Kite Nest and Roosting Surveys

The swallow-tailed kite has suffered a significant range reduction since the 1880s when it bred in 21 states. These elegant raptors are now found in seven Southeastern states, where they nest in bottomland forests along some of the large southern rivers. Most nests in Georgia are on swallow-tailed kite by Earl Hornprivate land, particularly industrial timberlands. DNR conservation efforts include finding and monitoring nests, protecting nests from predators where possible, working with private landowners to assure habitat viability, and searching for previously radio-tagged kites.

In 2009, 22 active nests were found and monitored. Due to high water and limited ground access, most nests were located and checked from the air. Half failed in 2009, with 11 nests producing a total of 15 fledglings. The failures seemed to result from heavy rains in late May that produced wet and cold conditions. Four radio-tagged kites were relocated, from among 58 tagged in 2005-2006.

Lower-water levels in 2010 allowed more survey work on foot. Forty nests were found and monitored. A high failure rate of close to 50 percent was similar to nesting results in 2009. The nests on the Altamaha River seem to have better nest success than those on the Satilla River. Predator shields were placed around the base of many nest trees.

Two kites that were fitted with radio telemetry harnesses in 2005 and 2006 were relocated in 2010 in Georgia. One of these birds was confirmed nesting, which proved that the transmitter survived for five years, longer than the predicted 4.5-year life span.

kite roost on the Altamaha River

A first-ever range-wide roost survey was coordinated in 2009 with South Carolina, Georgia Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Florida. Georgia biologists flew two days in late July, counting 155 kites on one flight and 49 on the other.

This survey was followed up in 2010 with increased effort. The Satilla, Altamaha, Ogeechee and Savannah rivers were surveyed, with two aircraft used on each of four survey days. The extra effort was rewarded with much higher roost counts, including 459 kites on these rivers on July 28.

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