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Swallow-tailed kite. Photo by Walter Rodriguez, CC BY 2.0.

Tracking “Panther,” the swallow-tailed kite

June 8, 2016, was an exciting day at Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge when the Avian Research and Conservation Institute captured a swallow-tailed kite, now known as “Panther”, and fitted him with a GPS tracking transmitter funded by Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge.

Panther has given collaborators the opportunity to follow his travels from refuge nesting grounds, more than 600 miles up to South Carolina, then back down to cross the Gulf of Mexico and the Andes for southbound migration. While in the Amazon, Panther’s transmitter didn’t have much cell coverage, but he connected again on August 22, from the State of Rondônia, Brazil. Interestingly, that area in Rondônia looks similar to habitats around Brooksville, Florida.

A biologist smiles as he removes a bird from a white net.
Project Leader Kevin Godsea assists in removing “Panther” from the capture net. Photo by Mark Danaher, USFWS.

Panther has flown more than 4,000 miles since his capture, and everyone eagerly awaits this continued travels. You can follow Panther and other swallow-tailed kites that The Avian Research and Conservation Institute are tracking online.

Tracking this kite and others is critical for helping to better understand the kites’ natural history. The solar-powered GPS/GSM tracking device attached to Panther allows collaborators to analyze habitat use vs. availability, estimate home range, better document important communal roosts and nesting habitat, and ultimately identify swallow-tailed kite wintering destinations. With this data, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is able to better understand important habitats on the refuge and surrounding lands.

This work also allows the refuge and the Avian Research and Conservation Institute to improve public awareness and enthusiasm for the swallow-tailed kite through social media updates, blog postings, and presentations throughout Southwest Florida. Critical data is being collected for science, and everyone involved is educating the public with a powerful conservation message about the swallow-tailed kite and migratory birds.

Stay up to date with the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge’s Facebook page.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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