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Thu Nov 21, 2013, 02:40 PM

 

Snail Kite heaven: Lake Kissimmee, Florida

Last edited Fri Nov 22, 2013, 02:57 PM - Edit history (1)

For those that want to see and photograph Snail Kites, as far as I know, the best place to visit is Lake Kissimmee in central Florida.

Lake Kissimmee and Joe Overstreet Rd that leads to the east shore of the lake is a popular birding area. A major prize of the area is the Snail Kite which breeds around the lake. Often you can see the Snail Kites from the shore by the end of Joe Overstreet Rd. I took the last four Snail Kite pictures there this summer of one that was hanging around the dock at that time. Usually you're not that lucky.

To get better looks, take the airboat ride from the company that operates at the end of Joe Overstreet Rd and ask them to take you to see the Snail Kites. You can get really close to the kites from the boat:

coordinates: N27.93716, W81.22577

https://plus.google.com/105463564447692038513/about?gl=us&hl=en

At least right now, there are a lot of Snail Kites on the lake. There is a huge population of snails in the lake so the kites should be reliable for a while. The kites do move around central and southern Florida, but the airboat operator told me that Lake Kissimmee currently has the largest population.

The first three Snail Kite pictures I took from the airboat on November 17, and the last four I took this summer of a kite that was hunting around the dock. The Bald Eagle and the other snail hunting specialists, the Limpkin, I took on November 17 from the lakeshore by the dock:

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Reply Snail Kite heaven: Lake Kissimmee, Florida (Original post)
cpwm17 Nov 2013 OP
postulater Nov 2013 #1
cpwm17 Nov 2013 #2
csziggy Nov 2013 #3
cpwm17 Nov 2013 #4
csziggy Nov 2013 #5
cpwm17 Nov 2013 #6
csziggy Nov 2013 #7
cpwm17 Nov 2013 #10
csziggy Nov 2013 #11
cpwm17 Nov 2013 #12
csziggy Nov 2013 #13
locks Nov 2013 #8
cpwm17 Nov 2013 #9

Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Thu Nov 21, 2013, 07:19 PM

1. Nice pictures. But how big are those snails? They look huge!

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Response to postulater (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 21, 2013, 07:24 PM

2. You're right about those snails

 

I've never seen such large snails before. The airboat operator said that there are also some invasive snails in the lake. I think he meant the large snails. The kites don't mind.

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Thu Nov 21, 2013, 08:14 PM

3. Do the kites stay there all winter?

Great pictures!

We usually go down to Central Florida towards the end of January to get in some bird watching. My Mom lives in Bartow so Lake Kissimmee wouldn't very far away. Now that Mom is alone (other than her caretakers) I'm trying to visit as often as possible so I want to find places near her where my husband can get his birthday present of birdwatching.

I'd thought about going to the Kissimmee Cow Camp - last time we were there, my husband got a picture of a Florida Scrub Jay. But the lake is just east of there!

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Response to csziggy (Reply #3)

Thu Nov 21, 2013, 08:34 PM

4. They'll probably be there this winter

 

From what I understand the Snail Kites move around to where there is food, rather than having any particular migratory pattern. I'm not completely sure about their movements.

More often than not I've missed them when I've just gone to the end of Joe Overstreet Rd and watched for them to fly by. But I don't wait around very long. But the last two times (late summer and a few days ago) I've seen them from the end of the road. The airboat ride I took a few days ago was my first such attempt. It didn't take long to start seeing them. I'm sure you'll see them if you take an airboat ride this winter. I saw 1/2 dozen kites and we only covered a fraction of the lake.

Ask to see Snail Kites specifically. If you join other tourists you'll spend most of your time watching alligators.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #4)

Thu Nov 21, 2013, 09:33 PM

5. Thanks - this may be my husband's birthday present!

When we were in Naples a couple of years ago he wanted to do an airboat tour in the Everglades. I vetoed it - not in September of a hot year with no cold weather to slow down the bugs! They don't bite him but I get eaten alive. January is the better time to do it, IMO.

How expensive is the airboat? ETA never mind - I found their web site. Not too bad considering tourist prices in that area.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #5)

Fri Nov 22, 2013, 10:35 PM

6. I might try another airboat ride late next month

 

I need good pictures of an adult male Snail Kite. I'll post my results if I go.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #6)

Fri Nov 22, 2013, 10:36 PM

7. I'll keep my eyes open for your pictures!

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Response to csziggy (Reply #7)

Mon Nov 25, 2013, 03:28 PM

10. On Sunday I drove by Lake Kissimmee

 

and it's obviously hunting season. I heard a lot of gunfire. I'm glad I did the airboat ride the previous week.

For a more pleasant visit you may want to wait until after hunting season (not sure when) to do a trip if you can, though I assume you could go during hunting. I won't have a chance to take another airboat ride until May or June since I don't want to go during hunting this Fall or Winter.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #10)

Mon Nov 25, 2013, 03:57 PM

11. Looks like most hunting periods will NOT be when we'll be there!

http://myfwc.com/hunting/season-dates/

Deer and some other game seasons would be in effect, but:

http://myfwc.com/media/2657128/MigratoryGameBird-Regulations.pdf
First Phase: Nov. 23 Dec. 1, 2013
Second Phase: Dec. 7, 2013 Jan. 26, 2014

We'd be down the last week of January - my husband's birthday is the 30th, so we'll just miss it.

When we visited Merritt Island NWR, it was the week after the season ended and the ducks were still really skittish, though we still got to see a lot of them, especially in the wetlands along the roads where hunting was not permitted. Most other birds were OK and we got lots of pictures.

Birds are pretty smart about hunters. Way back after we'd been on our farm for a few years and didn't allow hunting, a guy bought the land next to us and planted millet and corn to attract doves. During the season he'd go out before dawn to try to shoot doves - and not see a one. Meanwhile, they'd be roosting in the trees and on the wires, waiting for him to leave so they could go back and dine on the bounty he provided. He'd leave and see hundreds of doves on our property - it frustrated him no end.

Our wildlife population doubles as soon as hunting season begins - we still allow only limited hunting. One young man, and he only takes one or two old does a year to help manage the population. We had so many deer they were no longer healthy, so this is good.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #11)

Tue Nov 26, 2013, 12:22 AM

12. Great, it looks like you'll have no problems

 

You could possibly try to verify with the airboat company that the kites are still being seen before you go. At least the airboat operator that I went with is very familiar with them.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #12)

Tue Nov 26, 2013, 12:24 AM

13. I may call while I'm down there next week

And I can check before we go in January. If nothing else, my husband would enjoy the airboat ride and even if there are no snail kites, there would be other birds.

Thanks!

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Sat Nov 23, 2013, 08:16 PM

8. Beautiful!

I think I saw a snail kite sailing around in New Orleans last May when I was there. It stayed for a couple hours. Does this sound right?

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Response to locks (Reply #8)

Sat Nov 23, 2013, 08:31 PM

9. Thank you

 

They are widespread throughout much of the tropics in North and South America, but in the US they are only in Florida:

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