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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Benefiting Kites and Much More: Forest Companies, Conservation Groups, and Researchers Join Forces to Inform Sustainable Forest Management and Identify Potential Enhancements

The Swallow-tailed Kite is one of North America’s most beautiful birds of prey, dazzling anyone lucky enough to see this fork-tailed, white-and-black bird sail overhead on 4-foot-wide wings. Swallow-tailed Kites are long-distance migrants that spend their spring and summer months in the southeastern U.S. and then winter in central South America. The species’ U.S. range […]

The Swallow-tailed Kite is one of North America’s most beautiful birds of prey, dazzling anyone lucky enough to see this fork-tailed, white-and-black bird sail overhead on 4-foot-wide wings. Swallow-tailed Kites are long-distance migrants that spend their spring and summer months in the southeastern U.S. and then winter in central South America. The species’ U.S. range has shrunk in recent decades and a coalition of interested organizations is helping to maintain and improve habitat conditions for the Swallow-tailed Kite and other forest birds throughout fiber and forest product supply chains.

This effort brings together International Paper (IP), American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI), Resource Management Service (RMS), Forest Investment Associates (FIA), and White Oak Forest Management (White Oak), to support the study of Swallow-tailed Kite forest habitat use in South Carolina.

Swallow-tailed Kite, copyright Andy Adcock, from the surfbirds galleries

As part of this work, three Swallow-tailed Kites were trapped and fitted with GPS transmitters near IP’s mill in Georgetown, South Carolina, on forests owned or managed by RMS and FIA, with local assistance from White Oak. In June, wildlife biologists safely captured the three birds under permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, releasing each one within 30 minutes.

Over the next several years, the activity and locations of these three birds will be recorded and analyzed by ARCI to better understand specific habitats used for nesting, foraging, and roosting. This data will be critical to further improving the sustainable forest management techniques used by landowners and managers who supply wood fiber to IP (for more information, see Swallow-tailed Kite Forest Management Recommendations for Forest Owners). Countless wildlife species that share the kite’s habitats benefit from successful management and the creation of nesting and foraging habitat conditions for this species.

The broad coalition of companies that purchase the fiber, the landowners who actively manage their forests, and conservation organizations that provide expertise and guidance … together these stakeholders provide an excellent example of the cooperation and coordination needed to ensure that our forests can support the future needs of wildlife, local communities, and the economy.

Tracking Progress of the Georgetown Swallow-tailed Kites

In the coming weeks, the three Swallow-tailed Kites (named Peter’s Creek, Carver’s Bay, and Big Branch) will begin their migration to South America. The birds most likely will travel south through Florida before departing for a risky flight across the Gulf of Mexico. The rest of their southbound migration will continue overland to wintering destinations in Brazil, Paraguay, or Bolivia. Once the birds begin their journey, we’ll provide updates on their progress, revealing how these Swallow-tailed Kites carry out their impressive migration to their winter homes, then back to nest sites in the southern U.S. in the spring of 2022.

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