Swallow-tail kite by Andy Morffew, Flickr
Swallow-tail kite by Andy Morffew, Flickr

April is an interesting time here in Florida. We start to transition into another rainy season, many birds are in the process of raising their newly hatched chicks, and snowbirds are beginning their long journeys back north.

However, there is one bird that has taken an even longer journey and is just starting to arrive. They are the reason why this time of year is always one of my favorites. Swallow-tailed kites are back. I actually saw my first one about 3 weeks ago, but I’ve now seen four more within the past week. Spotting one always makes my day.

Every year, many of these birds make the long journey from their winter feeding grounds in South America, north through Central America to Mexico and then across the Gulf to reach their nesting grounds in the Southeastern United States. We still don't know why some of them make this arduous migration while others remain in South America year-round.

There are so many fascinating things about these graceful birds, like the fact that they tend to nest communally in treetops, a rarity for birds of prey. However, their most distinctive feature is their flight pattern. They are able to move the feathers of their v-shaped tail independently of each other. This allows them to perform dizzying aerial maneuvers that would be impossible for larger birds. I find watching their flight incredibly relaxing, a calming sight in a chaotic world.

So keep your eyes to the skies these next few months. Look for the distinctive white on black pattern, the v-shaped tail, and the aerobatic stunts they can perform. Most people don't get the chance to experience these incredible birds, so be thankful for our wildlife diversity here in Florida and be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to observe them.