The Striking Endangered Everglades Snail Kite, and the Fight for Water. St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Everglades Snail Kite, Audubon web site. Photo
Everglades Snail Kite, Audubon web site. Photo by R. J. Wiley.

To me there are few birds as striking as the Everglades snail kite, especially the hooked-beaked, wicked-talloned, dark/red-orange colored male. They are raptors in the family of eagles, hawks and vultures. Skilled beyond belief they have specialized their hunting ritual to include one thing, the apple snail. They fly with what is described as the slow, head-down, gargoyle-like flight of a blue heron, but eyes lowered with radar vision positioned to see and seize their tiny prey. Beautiful, remarkable, a machine of God’s creation and nature’s adaptation. An inspiration to all.

Video: Photographer Mac Stone: (
Well almost all….

You may have heard that recently at the South Florida Water Management District the Snail Kite  was discussed in light of pumping water from Lake Okeechobee. I do not know all the details of the meeting, but I would imagine it had something to do with the Endangered Species Act, the birds are endangered, and that the snail kite’s habitat. Their habit is around Lake Okeechobee, so if too much water were pumped out of the lake, more than likely their habitat and health would be affected. They are protected by federal law.

Another species also affected by the level of Lake Okeechobee is humans. We are not endangered. Homo Sapiens flourish in Florida. Especially those who are farming south of the Lake in the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), 700,000 acres of sugar cane, vegetables, and citrus that is also reliant on the waters of the lake (to water their crops free of charge….) This area totally blocks the once free-flowing waters of Lake Okeechobee. Those waters were diverted to the estuaries such as the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee.

Do I sound like I have a chip on my shoulder? I do.

Also— I believe the aquifers under and surrounding the Water Conservation Areas south/outside of the EAA are connected to the people of Miami-Dade and their water supply.

This is huge….

Presently it is not raining that much and the lake is close to being near “water shortage,” for the Homo Sapiens as defined by the SFWMD.

I feel for everyone “hemmed in by this situation,” I really do  but I also feel for the birds, for the lake, and for all of us who endure the wrath of a system that is totally altered and totally out of balance. A system we have created and can work harder to improve.

Perhaps situations like these will push us to develop more water storage south, north, and around the lake? To buy more land? To support Amendment  1? To exercise the option…or something like it?

Because we all know, with out the needed water levels, we too, like the snail kite are “dead.”


Endangered Species Act 1973:(

Audubon Snail Kites:(

Water Shortage SFWMD:(

6 thoughts on “The Striking Endangered Everglades Snail Kite, and the Fight for Water. St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Beautiful – have seen a lot of pond apples all ripe lately!

    On Wed, Jul 22, 2015 at 7:06 AM, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch wrote:

    > Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch posted: ” To me there are few birds as > striking as the Everglades snail kite, especially the hooked-beaked, > wicked-talloned, dark/red-orange colored male. They are raptors in the > family of eagles, hawks and vultures. Skilled beyond belief they have > specialized “

  2. Great blog, Jacqui. The snail kites are in a tough situation. Picky eaters, they are, and it’s hard to see any light at the end of the Lake O tunnel, sometimes. Your inspiring articles help us keep the face though. Keep ’em coming.

  3. Very interesting comments especially from Mr Newton Cook. Thank you Facebook friends for your comments.Pamela Bovie Miller, Patti Strait, Kathleen McElroy and 15 others like this.

    Rebecca Fatzinger what a beautiful bird!
    Like · Reply · 10 hrs

    Bill Wolters They are magnificent. Another interesting fact, (I’m a former board member of Audubon and birding guide), is that their beak is not symmetrical, because neither is the shell of the apple snail. They evolved to match the “right-handed” structure of the shell.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 10 hrs

    Newton Earl Cook The problem is with the issue at hand is that once the Snail Kite endangered species status is applied to the water level in the Lake…in this case at low levels… then it can be applied to any change of water level the Corps/SFWMD try to make within LORS…If lowering the Lake today will reduce snail kite foraging, raising the Lake tomorrow too deep for a certain area with snails will do the same…The snail kites were forced out of WCA 3 due to the high water partly caused by the closing of the S 12s to protect another endangered bird..the CSSS…Backing up water during rain events…holding water in the Lake…and a lot of that water ends up going out the C 43 and C 44…ruining the estuaries…..Making rules tieing the hands of the USACE/SFWMD water managers (the Corps has the final say) because of a single species is a dangerous proposition and could result in more bombs to the esturaries ….Many snail kites now nest in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, especially Lake Toho..and some in the STAs. A lot of work is done to protect their nesting areas by reducing access…That is fine, but floods and droughts happen…and even though the SFWMD and Corps have the ability to reduce the impact on stakeholders, the bird does adapt and move to better habitat as has been proven. The suprise proposal to insert the Endangered Species Act into LORS has the potential to do more damage to the estuaries by preventing more water moving south….or moving at all, until the situation is so dire the Lake water has to be relieved for safety…and we all know where that water goes every time….East and West…
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 8 hrs · Edited

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch Newton Earl Cook thank you for that well communicated explanation. That is very thought provoking and does raise concerns. Thank you for explaining.
    Like · Just now
    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

    Write a reply…

    Patti Strait he does look a little confused…
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs

  4. I read most snail Kite have moved to Lake Toho because overdrainage is killing the apple snail I have also read in a fishing report that to catch crappie sponing you have to fish the shoreline. This is totally alien to me. I lived and worked in this area many years ago and back then crappie were ALLWAYS sponing in the deepest part of the lake.I think apple snals are dependant on algie that grows on calcium so the can make their shells. Acidification of lake O has put the Snail Kite in jeperdy along with everything else

Leave a Reply