Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In Florida? Participate in the 2015 Swallow-tailed Kite population surveys

The Avian Research and Conservation Institute invites you to participate in Florida’s Swallow-tailed Kite population monitoring surveys for 2015. At this time of year, Swallow-tailed Kites are gathering in foraging aggregations and communal night roosts, where they gain behavioral information from each other that helps them find swarms of insects and other prey to put on weight rapidly and prepare themselves for migration. These roosts are extremely sensitive places for Swallow-tailed Kites and some reach well over 1,000 birds during this brief but vitally important time of year. 

ARCI’s synchronized surveys, which began in their present form 26 years ago – in 1989 – have become a very important tool for monitoring trends in the U. S. population. We systematically photograph roosts on the same dates in late July, the period when numbers have consistently reached their peak. A recent three-year collaborative project with biologists in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas found that 90% of the kites simultaneously observed were in Florida roosts. This year, for the first time, we want to synchronize public sighting reports with Florida’s systematic photo-counts on the 3 most important days. Citizen Scientists can play a very important role in this statewide effort to track changes in our national Swallow-tailed Kite population in Florida.

Participation is easy. Just report the date, time, location and number of Swallow-tailed Kites and what they were doing when you saw them on these three days:

22 July
25 July
28 July

Enter your data on one of these online forms depending on your location. The forms are responsive to your smart device, so you can even report from the field! We recommend you bookmark these forms for easy access.

Go here for sightings in North Florida
Go here for sightings in Central Florida
Go here for sightings in South Florida

The most valuable Swallow-tailed Kite sightings will be those in the mornings from sunrise to 10:00 a.m. The birds you report may be perched or flying, but please specify. We encourage you to boat or kayak down a river, get out on your favorite lake or trail through a swamp forest (kites often roost near water), or just report kites as you see them anywhere, including from your own backyard. Above all, a bird's well-being comes first; if a bird appears agitated or takes flight, you are too close.

We look forward to hearing about your Swallow-tailed Kite sightings and including them in this Florida-wide synchronized population survey. All contributors will be acknowledged on ARCI’s website.