Swallow-tailed Kite Project
The northern Swallow-tailed Kite experienced a severe population decline and dramatic reduction in breeding range from 1880 to 1910. The U.S. breeding range, which once spanned 21 states, is now limited to seven southeastern states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The current U.S. population size may consist of as few as 2,500 breeding pairs (Meyer 1995). The Swallow-tailed Kite was proposed as a Category 2 candidate for federal listing as a threatened or endangered species. OAS and other groups are collecting population data needed to support federal listing.
Learn how you can help kites
The kite conservation brochure has recommendations for landowners, managers and the public.
If you find an injured, debilitated or orphaned Swallow-tailed Kite, call (504) 717-3544 and arrange for transportation to our Swallow-tailed Kite rehabilitation facility.
In 2022, we are continuing our efforts to locate and monitor nests, nesting neighborhoods, roost sites, feeding flocks, and bathing and drinking sites in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Birds are returning to the breeding grounds now and some are already building nests.
In 2021, we monitored nests, roost sites, and feeding flocks in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. We located and monitored 18 nests (8 in LA and 10 in MS). In Mississippi, we documented the first known nests in Franklin and Leake counties! Audubon Delta partnered with us, and our work was funded by the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (MMNS) and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Managing for Kites
In 2021 we are also investigating land management practices that benefit Swallow-tailed Kites. These include aspects of controlled burns, industrial timber, forestry, and agriculture (e.g., haying) that provide an abundance of insects for kites to exploit.
Did you know that Swallow-tailed Kites often show up at controlled burn sites to feed on insects stirred up by the fire? We are studying this phenomenon with the help of Southeast Louisiana Refuges and The Nature Conservancy of Louisiana. This project is funded by the Coypu Foundation.
One important conservation goal is to identify migration routes, stopover sites, and wintering grounds used by the northern subspecies. OAS and our partners at the Avian Research and Conservation Institute have captured adult kites and fitted them with extremely light-weight, state-of-the-art GPS-satellite transmitters.
The adults OAS captured and marked most recently are:
Crosby, F, tagged: 2015, Harris Co., TX (killed by an owl in 2015)
Lacombe, M, tagged: 2015, St. Tammany P, LA (died: Mar. 2020)
Strong River, M, tagged: 2015, Simpson Co., MS (killed by a raptor in 2016)
Bogue Falaya, M, tagged: 2017, St. Tammany Par., LA (transmitter malfunctioned: Mar. 2018; last spotted July 2021)
Bayou Paquet, F, tagged: 2017, St. Tammany Par., LA (killed by an owl in 2017)
Bayou Vincent, F, tagged: 2018, St. Tammany Par., LA (died: Oct. 2019)
Hobolochitto, M, tagged: 2018, Pearl River Co., LA (died: Feb. 2020)
Ponchitolawa, M, tagged: 2019, St. Tammany Par., LA (died: Oct. 2021)
You can follow the global movements of some of the kites tagged by OAS and ARCI ornithologists. Click here to see the tracking maps, and select an individual kite to see its entire map, a zoomed in map, and even animation of the bird’s route. The kites tagged by Orleans Audubon Society researchers are identified as: “Lacombe” “Strong River” “Pearl MS” “Slidell” “Pasc” and “Bogue Falaya.” [Tracks of these kites are no longer being updated on the seaturtle.org website.] We recommend that you also visit our partners at the Avian Research and Conservation Institute.
Jennifer and Tom Coulson, OAS
Nick Winstead, MMNS
Kenneth Meyer and Gina Kent, ARCI
Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks
The Coypu Foundation
The McDaniel Charitable Foundation
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
If you are as excited as we are about the kite project and want to help, here are several ways that you can get involved:
1. Report Swallow-tailed Kite sightings (details below).
2. Download the Swallow-tailed Kite conservation brochure (link above).
3. ADOPT-a-KITE: Data retrieval for each tagged kite costs $67.00 per month or $800.00 per year. You can help continue this project by adopting a kite and sending a check payable to “Orleans Audubon Society” and write “Adopt-a-Kite” on the memo line. Donations of any amount are appreciated! Mail the check to: Mary Joe Krieger, OAS Treasurer, 3623 Nashville Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70125.
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BIRD?
Please report sightings of the Swallow-tailed Kite. Sightings of nests, roosts, kites carrying nest material or food, locations where kites are seen regularly, and sightings of more than one kite are of particular interest. Your sightings will help the Orleans Audubon Society study this rare bird of prey.
Information to report:
Date and time of sighting
Location (as specific as possible)
Number of kites observed
Was there anything else of interest (e.g., carrying a snake)?
Your contact information
Report sightings in Louisiana and Mississippi to:
Jennifer Coulson email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Coulson, J.O., S.J. Taft and T.D. Coulson. 2010. Gastrointestinal parasites of the Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus), including a report of lesions associated with the nematode Dispharynx sp. Journal of Raptor Research 44:208–214. Download the paper here: PDF
Coulson, J.O., T.D. Coulson, S.A. DeFrancesch, and T.W. Sherry. 2008. Predators of the Swallow-tailed Kite in southern Louisiana and Mississippi. Journal of Raptor Research 42:1–12. Download the paper here: PDF
Coulson, J. O. 2001. Swallow-tailed Kites carry passerine nests containing nestlings to their own nests. Wilson Bulletin 113:340–342. Download the paper here: PDF
Coulson, J. O. 2002. Mississippi Kites use Swallow-tailed Kite nests. Journal of Raptor Research 36:155–156. Download the paper here: PDF