Audubon Florida News

Are Exotic Apple Snails Saving the Everglade Snail Kite?

posted on February 16, 2012 in Everglade Snail Kite,Lake Okeechobee

Are recent reports of successful Everglade Snail Kite breeding a cause for celebration? Not so fast, warns Audubon Florida Everglades Scientists.

Despite a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on the recent success of Everglade Snail Kites on Lake Okeechobee, one year does not reflect a trend. The jury (and scientific data) is still out on the long-term sustainability of the kite’s most abundant new food source – an invasive, exotic apple snail from South America with unknown ecological risks.

Make no mistake, Audubon is relieved to learn that the kites’ population on a broad scale fared well over the past year, particularly in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, which was the last remaining place in Florida where their reproduction was an unmitigated success.

Unfortunately, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades proper can no longer support healthy populations of this important indicator species. Over the past decade, Everglade Kite numbers have plummeted disastrously – from 3,000 to around 700 individuals.

Audubon Florida is actively working and dedicated to the long-term viability of this iconic Florida species throughout its traditional and historic range, including critical breeding habitat on Lake Okeechobee. Some of Audubon’s chief recommendations for the health and benefit of the Everglade Snail Kite and the Greater Everglades Ecosystem as a whole are:

  1. Restore water levels in Lake Okeechobee and the Water Conservation Areas to support healthy habitats through Everglades Restoration projects and effective water management decisions.
  2. Emphasize water conservation, especially during the dry season.
  3. Sustain the viability of habitats in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes through aquatic plant management while the Kite’s critical habitat is restored.

Stay tuned to this blog for future updates on the Everglade Snail Kite. Your voice may be needed to help defend this important Florida species.

For more information on this issue, see Audubon Florida’s fact sheet from July 2011: “Everglade Snail Kites: Barometer for the Health of the Everglades and Progress of Restoration.”

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