Swallow-tailed Kite Research and Conservation Project

The northern Swallow-tailed Kite experienced a severe population decline and dramatic reduction in breeding range from 1880 to 1910. The U.S. breeding range, which once spanned 21 states, is now limited to seven southeastern states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Beginning in 2002, a single pair has sometimes nested in the White River Basin in Arkansas, but not every year. In 2013 a nest was found in North Carolina along the Cape Fear River. The current U.S. population size is precariously small, and may possibly consist of as few as 2,500 breeding pairs (Meyer 1995). The Swallow-tailed Kite was proposed as a Category 2 candidate for federal listing as a threatened or endangered species (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1985). The Orleans Audubon Society and other groups are collecting population data needed to support federal listing.

Nest Monitoring

In 2018, we are continuing the search for nests, roost sites, and feeding flocks in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Please continue to report kites! The survey and monitoring work we are conducting in central Mississippi is funded by the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (MMNS) and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

In 2018 we have located 22 nests (11 in LA, 10 in MS, and 1 in TX) as of June 27. In 2017, we located 26 nests (8 in LA and 18 in MS). Thirteen nests fledged 14 young, and 13 nests failed.

Kite Rescue

Meet "Biloxi" a Swallow-tailed Kite we are rehabilitating for return to the wild.

If you find an injured, debilitated or orphaned Swallow-tailed Kite, call (504) 717-3544 and arrange for transportation to our Swallow-tailed Kite rehab facility.

GPS-Satellite Tracking

One important conservation goal is to identify migration routes, stopover sites, and wintering grounds used by the northern subspecies. Ornithologists from the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) and the Orleans Audubon Society (OAS) have captured adult kites and fitted them with extremely light-weight, state-of-the-art GPS-satellite transmitters. In 2015 OAS captured and marked adults: in Harris County, Texas, in Lacombe, Louisiana, and on the Strong River in Simpson County, Mississippi. In 2017 we tagged an adult on the Bogue Falaya River in Louisiana.

Right: Tom Coulson

GPS-satellite transmitter

You can follow the global movements of each kite tagged by OAS and ARCI ornithologists. To see the tracking maps, go to: http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/?project_id=665. Click on an individual kite to see its entire map, a zoomed in map, and even animation of the bird's route. The kites tagged by Orleans Audubon Society researchers are identified as: "Lacombe" "Strong River" “Pearl MS” “Slidell” “Pasc” and "Bogue Falaya." We recommend that you also visit our partners at the Avian Research and Conservation Institute: www.arcinst.org.

Project Partners

Jennifer and Tom Coulson, OAS
Nick Winstead, MMNS
Kenneth Meyer and Gina Kent, ARCI
Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks
The Coypu Foundation
The McDaniel Charitable Foundation
Above: Bogue Falaya male flying away after tagging

We Thank the Following Project Volunteers

Pat Brown, Donna Bush, Glynda Clardy, Jay Cliburn, Holly Cox, Jennifer and Tom Coulson, Brett, Inga and Juniper Falterman, Linda Feringa, Joelle Finley, Ken Harris, Rufus Harris, Joseph Kennedy, Janine Robin, Glenn Ousset, Dave Patton, Matt Pontiff, Jason Price, Wesley Smith, and Dr. Ken Meyer and Gina Kent, Avian Research and Conservation Institute.

Juniper Falterman assisting with tagging


If you are as excited as we are about the kite project and want to help, here are several ways that you can get involved:

1. Tell your favorite teacher about our kite tracking site. See Tracking Swallow-tailed Kite Global Movements for an activity sheet for teens.

2. Report Swallow-tailed Kite sightings (details below).

3. ADOPT-a-KITE: Data retrieval for each tagged kite costs $100.00 per month or $1200 per year. You can help continue this project by adopting a kite and sending a check payable to "Orleans Audubon Society" and write "Adopt-a-Kite" on the memo line. Mail the check to: Mary Joe Krieger, OAS Treasurer, 3623 Nashville Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70125.


Please report sightings of the Swallow-tailed Kite. Sightings of nests, roosts, kites carrying nest material or food, locations where kites are seen regularly, and sightings of more than one kite are of particular interest. Your sightings will help the Orleans Audubon Society study this rare bird of prey.

Information to report:

Date and time of sighting

Location (please be as specific as possible)

Number of kites observed

Was there anything else of interest (e.g., carrying a snake)?

Your contact information

Report sightings in Louisiana and Mississippi to:

Jennifer Coulson



Coulson, J.O., S.J. Taft and T.D. Coulson. 2010. Gastrointestinal parasites of the Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus), including a report of lesions associated with the nematode Dispharynx sp. Journal of Raptor Research 44:208–214. Download the paper here: PDF

Coulson, J.O., T.D. Coulson, S.A. DeFrancesch, and T.W. Sherry. 2008. Predators of the Swallow-tailed Kite in southern Louisiana and Mississippi. Journal of Raptor Research 42:1–12. Download the paper here: PDF

Coulson, J. O. 2001. Swallow-tailed Kites carry passerine nests containing nestlings to their own nests. Wilson Bulletin 113:340–342. Download the paper here: PDF

Coulson, J. O. 2002. Mississippi Kites use Swallow-tailed Kite nests. Journal of Raptor Research 36:155–156. Download the paper here: PDF

Send an email request to: OrleansAudubon@aol.com to request .pdf electronic reprints.


Support Louisiana conservation using PAYPAL:

or a Donor Advised Fund:

OAS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, charitable organization, and as such, your gift may be tax deductible if you itemize.