Snail Kite

Rostrhamus sociabilis




Kites, Eagles and Hawks (Accipitridae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

White, sometimes marked with brown

Number of Eggs:

2 - 4

Incubation Days:

26 - 30

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

In a low tree or on a hummock of marsh grass.

Nest Material:

Green or dry sticks and leafy twigs.





Snail Kite: A large bird, dark blue black overall with extremely hooked thin black bill with reddish base. In flight it shows a white tail with broad dark distal band and narrow gray terminal band. Long legs are bright orange or red. Females are dark brown overall with white chin and cheeks and white spot over each eye. Juveniles resemble females but are heavily streaked below.

Range and Habitat

Snail Kite: This bird ranges from the Gulf coast and Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico and the West Indies to northern Argentina. Within the United States, it resides only in peninsular Florida. It is locally common on flooded freshwater marshes, around shallow lakes, and along freshwater courses.

Breeding and Nesting

Snail Kite: Two to four white eggs sometimes marked with brown are laid in a nest of green or dry sticks and leafy twigs. Nest is built by both sexes but male does most of the work. Nest is placed in a low tree, 3-9 feet above ground, or on a hammock of marsh grass. Incubation ranges from 26 to 30 days and is carried out by both sexes. These birds usually have one brood per year but can also have two if there is plenty of food available.

Foraging and Feeding

Snail Kite: This bird feeds mostly on prosobranch freshwater snails of genus Pomacea, also called a green or apple snail, which lays its tiny white eggs on plant stems a few inches above the water. Flies above water surface with its head pointed downward searching for prey in water below. Once snail is detected, Snail Kite hovers just above water surface and extends feet to grasp prey with talons. Snail Kite never takes snail with its bill, nor does it plunge in the manner of fish-eating raptors; adults seldom get belly feathers wet.


Snail Kite: This bird's greeting call is grating "kor-ee-ee-a, koree-a."" Also utters crying "k-a-a-a-a-a-a-a" and repetitive "ker-wuck" or "ku-kuak." Both sexes give a "ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka" call.

Similar Species

Snail Kite: Northern Harrier also has a white rump but has thinner wings, a longer tail, and rocks from side-to-side as it glides.

The area of the face just below the bill.
Terminal bandX
Refers to the contrasting stripe at the tip of the tail.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X