Swallow-tailed kite Census 

The Swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus) is a bird of prey easily identified by its contrasting black and white feathers and forked tail.

Prior to the 1900s, Swallow-tailed kites nested in 21 states throughout their range, but a sharp decline in their population brought that range down to just seven states and less than 2,500 breeding pairs. Since the late 1980s, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens' (JZG) partner the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) has studied and tracked breeding pairs, habitat use and the location of nests to gather data that will be used to enact laws to protect their future.

From 2005-2011, ARCI has tagged 101 Swallow-tailed kite nestlings with radio transmitters to gain insight about survival related to age as well as natal dispersal. By 2005, the U.S. population's migration range was confirmed to be larger than previously thought, with birds wintering as far south as southern Brazil. Since 2011, ARCI has deployed the newest technology of GPS satellite transmitters which provide better location accuracy and last for several years. This allows ARCI to track the U.S. population even while they aren't in their U.S. nesting and breeding ranges. This ongoing research also enables ARCI to track Swallow-tailed kites' migration routes and provides more data on foraging and nesting sites. Knowing this information will help protect these areas and conserve the species for future generations.

?Since 2014, JZG has helped fund aerial surveys to identify breeding roosts and count birds. In 2018, JZG sponsored a GPD transmitter tag for a Swallow-tailed kite named JAX. Follow along on our Facebook page as we give updates on JAX's migration back home to North Florida.


For additional information about Swallow-tailed kites, and what ARCI is doing to understand and protect these birds, visit their website.