Snail Kite

Scientific Name:
Rostrhamus sociabilis
Population Status:
Least Concern
Body Length:
15-18 inches
Wingspan:
4 feet
Weight:
12-14 ounces

Did you know?

  • The female may desert the male and leave him to finish raising the nestlings while she searches for a new mate to raise a second clutch of eggs.
  • Their plumage shows sexual dimorphism. The male is solidly blue-black and the female is streaked brown with white on her face.
  • This is one of the most specialized feeders of any bird of prey. This specialty restricts the bird’s range to marshy areas that contain specific types of snails.

Where they live

Snail Kites are found in Florida, a few of the Caribbean Islands, Central America, and South America east of the Andes Mountains except for the northern Amazon Basin.

Why they need our help

They are endangered in the Florida Everglades where water levels are negatively impacting their prey, but the global population is stable and may even be increasing in Central America.

What they eat

True to their name, these birds eat snails, particularly the large apple snail, with beaks that are specially adapted to extract aquatic snails from their shells. If snails are not available, they also will eat freshwater crabs, turtles, and small rodents. Snail Kites hunt from a perch or by flying low over suitable habitat looking for prey.

Nest, eggs and young

They nest in colonies in low trees and bushes over water, placing flimsy, unlined nests on a thin branch. The female lays 1-4 white and brown eggs that are incubated by both parents for 26-28 days. The young fledge at 6-7 weeks old and are capable of reproducing in less than a year. Snail Kites may have more than one clutch in a season.

Conservation Projects


Photos needed! If you are a photographer and would be willing to donate photos of a Snail Kite for use on this site, please contact grin@peregrinefund.org

What makes a raptor a raptor?

Research Resources