Now officially known as simply a Snail Kite, the subspecies from Florida and Cuba (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus) formerly known as the Everglade Snail Kite was listed as endangered in 1967. The range of the Florida population of Snail Kites is restricted to watersheds in the central and southern part of the state. Because of a highly specific diet composed almost entirely of apple snails (Pomacea paludosa), survival of the Snail Kite depends directly on the hydrology and water quality of these watersheds, each of which has experienced pervasive degradation as a result of urban development and agricultural activities.
The slender, curved bill of this medium-sized raptor is an adaptation for extracting the kite's primary prey, the apple snail, from its shell. The bill is a distinguishing characteristic for field identification of adults as well as juveniles. Although sometimes confused with the northern harrier, the Snail Kite's flight is slower and characterized by more wing flapping, and the head typically is tilted down to look for snails while in flight. Snail Kites do not plunge into the water to capture snails and never use the bill to capture prey. Rather, they use their feet to capture snails at or below the surface of the water.