How Glades Restoration Would Impact One Snail-Loving Hawk

Posted at May 23, 2011 by Comments Off

This is the first in the Quirky Flamingo’s series on how Everglades Restoration would change the wildlife and landscape of South Florida’s River of Grass.

The Everglades Snail Kite would probably be one of the first species to benefit directly from efforts to return the Everglades to its natural flow.

When—or if—political and budgetary hurdles are cleared, and Everglades restoration plans come to fruition, the Everglades Snail Kite would soon see an upward turn in its population of less than 800 adults.

everglades snail kite11 300x232 How Glades Restoration Would Impact One Snail Loving Hawk

Everglades Snail Kite. Photo By Roger Real Drouin

The Everglades Snail Kite, a graceful hawk endemic to South Florida, lives almost exclusively off the apple snail. Whenever anyone talks about saving the endangered Snail Kite, they have to consider the apple snail.

The Everglades once supported a vast sea of wetland grasses, but as most South Floridians know, dikes, pools, channels, and locks have created an artificial, fragmented habitat there since the late 1920s. As a result, droughts devastate the apple snails.

Invasive plants make matters worse by preventing Snail Kites from getting to the apple snails that are growing in the top layer of the wetlands. Recently the Audubon Society estimated that because of these conditions, mortality may increase up to 16% for adult kites and 86% for juveniles.

But there may be hope.

Everglades Restoration wouldn’t just result in a more natural, cleaner water supply and drainage system for the much of the state, and support eco tourism in the region. It would impact numerous endangered species, such as the Florida Panther and the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, species that are now reduced to the status of merely hanging on.

The apple snail, and the Snail Kite, would see perhaps the most immediate benefits from returning parts of the Everglades to its natural flow. This hawk that gets its name from its staple diet and its smooth, gliding flight, would have a better chance over the next few decades as Everglades restoration work is completed.

According to the National Audubon Society, “the Snail Kite may also benefit from the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which has already facilitated the purchase of 207,000 acres, as well as attempts to create a more natural water cycle.”

However, according to the U. S. Census Bureau, Florida’s human population will grow by about 12 million people between 2000 and 2030. As the demand for land and water increase, active and innovative management will be needed to protect the Everglades—and species like the Snail Kite.

Up next, the Quirky Flamingo will talk to experts on the endangered Everglades Snail Kite and Everglades restoration.



 How Glades Restoration Would Impact One Snail Loving Hawk

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