Seasonal movements and ecology of rare Florida raptors: needs and opportunities for protecting Crested Caracaras, Snail Kites, Short-tailed Hawks, and Swallow-tailed Kites.
Florida’s four rarest and most distinctive raptors, strikingly different in their ecology and movements, pose serious challenges for management and conservation. The Crested Caracara, a grassland-dependent species listed as Threatened by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is a year-round resident on well defined home ranges in central and southern Florida that are constantly at risk from development. The nomadic Snail Kite, federally listed as Endangered, depends on a very narrow range of prey species for which availability is driven by unpredictable hydrologic conditions and delivery schedules, in turn influenced by competing water-delivery schedules for agriculture, urban development, and Everglades restoration. The Short-tailed Hawk, a true but short-distance migrant within peninsular Florida, preys mainly on birds, very unusual among Buteo hawks, and suffers high mortality from human activities that include shooting. Swallow-tailed Kites are true long-distance neotropical migrants that winter in southern Brazil but rely on highly diverse habitats, including mature hydric forests for nesting and diverse wetland mosaics for feeding. Dr. Meyer presents results of ARCI’s telemetry and demography studies, which have produced exciting data that are helping shape management and conservation plans for these fascinating, imperiled species.
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Ken Meyer received his BS in zoology from the University of Maine in Orono and his PhD in zoology and behavioral ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has studied the conservation biology of birds in Florida and beyond since the 1980s, beginning with his research on Swallow-tailed Kites, which continues to this day. After serving as a post-doctoral associate and then research associate at the University of Florida from 1988 to 1992, he conducted studies of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and the bird communities of south Florida pinelands for the National Park Service in Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park.
In 1997, Ken cofounded the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) and soon branched out to other research challenges on a broader range of species. He has served on species status-review committees for state agencies and biological review panels for national wildlife refuges; and as a graduate student advisor and committee member in his position as an adjunct Associate Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida.
In 2002, and again in 2014, ARCI received Partners in Flight National Research Awards for research and conservation planning for Swallow-tailed Kites; and in 2005, a National Wildlife Stewardship Award from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative for cooperative studies of Swallow-tailed Kite.