This is different: Endangered Florida bird benefits from an invasive species

Snail kites in Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area Wednesday, June 27, 2018. “Rotenberger has been one of the best areas for snail kite nesting this year,”€ said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Snail Kite Conservation Coordinator Tyler Beck. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

The Everglades snail kite, a raptor with red eyes and a knife-sharp beak, was sinking into oblivion a decade ago, its graceful arc on mottled wings fading from Florida skies forever.

As humans watched the free fall with haphazard rescue attempts, an unwitting savior stalled the extinction countdown.

In a strange twist to Florida’s storied tale of defeat in the face of invasive species, an exotic snail considered harmful for its voracious appetite and proficient procreation is propping up the raptor population.

For once, a struggling Sunshine State local is benefiting from an invasive import.

A snail kite in Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area Wednesday, June 27, 2018. “Rotenberger has been one of the best areas for snail kite nesting this year,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Snail Kite Conservation Coordinator Tyler Beck. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

“It’s a really strange situation,” said Zach Welch, a lead scientist and snail kite expert with the South Florida Water Management District. “We’re certainly not looking at imminent extinction like we were before the snail invasion. Instead, we have an invasive species helping an endangered species.”

RELATED: What’s behind the amazing revival of wading birds in South Florida? 

In 2010, the number of successful snail kite nests statewide through May totaled six.

This May, the number of successful nests was 124.

But the relationship between the endangered snail kite and its invasive prey presents a unique conundrum for wildlife managers: How do you…READ THE REST OF THE STORY AND SEE AN AMAZING SNAIL KITE PHOTO GALLERY ON MYPALMBEACHPOST.COM. 

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