The Snail Kite: Barometer of Everglades Health

The snail kite is an endangered bird mainly found in the Everglades area.1 The snail kite relies almost entirely on apple snails, hence its name.2 This bird uses its talons to pluck snails out of the water and eats them with a slender, hooked beak perfect for getting these mollusks out of their shells.2

This specialized diet means that the availability of apple snails directly affects the snail kite population. Loss of Everglades habitat and other human interventions in the Everglades ecosystem decreases apple snail—and, thus, snail kite—populations.2

Snail kites are sometimes called the “barometer” of Everglades health because the snail kite population is so geographically associated with the Everglades—in short, when the snail kites are doing well, that means the habitat they rely on is also in good shape.1,3

  1. Tom Nordlie, “UF study: Invasive snail may damage diet of rare Everglades bird,” IFAS News, February 4, 2010,
  2. “Snail Kite: Species Profile,” National Park Service, n.d.,
  3. Brad Buck, “UF/IFAS study: Snail kites’ affinity for home leaves them in more peril,” IFAS News, December 10, 2015,

Featured photo credit: Richard Crossley, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Web Writer at IFAS Communications

Sam is originally from California and has her BA in linguistics and MFA in poetry. She loves art, animals, culture, and learning about science.

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