Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis)


French: Milan des marais German: Schneckenweih Spanish: Caracolero común
Other common names: Everglade Kite (plumbeus)

Herpetotheres sociabilis


, 1817,

Corrientes, near Río de la Plata, Argentina


Cuban population sometimes awarded separate race, levis. Recent study of genetic divergences among the races found that plumbeus and major are very close (no genetic difference), with likely gene flow between them, suggesting that birds of latter race suitable for translocation to boost threatened populations of former in Florida#R. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • R. s. plumbeus Ridgway, 1874 – Florida Everglades (SE USA), Cuba and I of Pines.
  • R. s. major Nelson & Goldman, 1933 – E Mexico (C Veracruz to Yucatán Peninsula), N Guatemala (Petén), Belize and NW Honduras.
  • R. s. sociabilis (Vieillot, 1817) – locally in Central America from S Nicaragua through Costa Rica and Panama to South America, occurring in Colombia and Ecuador and, E of Andes, throughout Venezuela, the Guianas and Brazil to EC Argentina and Uruguay.
  • Descriptive notes

    39–48 cm; male 304–430 g, female 362–480 g; wingspan 99–115 cm. Very slender, strongly curved bill; both sexes differ from Helicolestes hamatus... read more


    Mainly vocalizes when breeding; female gives a sheep-like "weh-heh-heh..." to initiate... read more


    Lowlands of subtropics to tropics; needs marshes continuously flooded for at least 2 years to... read more

    Food and feeding

    Highly specialized morphologically to feed on apple snails (Pomacea), but will take other, smaller snails (e.g. Marisa)... read more


    Duration variable, 5–10 months. Nests Feb–Jul in USA; rainy season in tropics, e.g. Jan–Sept in Surinam; Aug–Mar in... read more


    Southernmost populations migratory, although transition between migratory and resident populations... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Often abundant in suitable habitat throughout most of range. Boom or bust cycles closely tied to droughts in Florida, where... read more

    Recommended citation

    Bierregaard, R.O., Jr & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 23 February 2020).