Molluscivore: Snail kite (female)

Snail Hunters

Words and photos by Mark Renz

That the Evergaldes snail kite is a predator may seem strange
considering it dines almost entirely on applesnails.
There are four species of applesnail in Florida, but only one is native: Panacea paludosa.
Adult endangered Everglades snail kites have adapted to the non-native Panacea canaliculata and depend on it for their diet,
while juveniles have a tougher time grasping the large shells.

Darwin checks out a deceased non-native apple snail (probably Pomacea canaliculata).

Female snail kite.

Male snail kite.

Male snail kite.

Male snail kite.

Male snail kite.

Male snail kite.

Applesnail shell pile under the tree where the Everglades snail kite was eating.

Warning! Eat us at your own risk!

Seldom do I see bright pink Applesnail (Pomacea canaliculata) eggs devoured by prey. Red and pink have long been warning colors to prey that such delicacies may be dangerous if consumed. For the female apple snail, she adds a neurotoxin to the eggs as well as a compound that impedes digestion of protein. Only fire ants seem to be able to feast on the eggs without ill effects.

Limpkin "feeling" for a meal.

A quick dip.

Wallah! What looks like a native Florida applesnail (Pomacea paludosa).

Various harvested snails discarded by birds in the crook of fallen oak.

Sunset over Pomacea canaliculata