ROTM: Follow Sawgrass

Dr. Gabe Vargo Raptors on the Move is sponsored by St. Petersburg Audubon Society in collaboration with the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI). For information on this program, how to bring it into your classroom, or to receive regular updates on the birds' progress, click here.

Sawgrass Flight w Transmitter - B. Bartley

Sawgrass in Flight - Bartley

ROTM: Following Sawgrass

12.19.19 Finally got an update from Sawgrass. The first since Dec. 7. She is still in the same area of Mato Grosso do Sul but now a little further south. It appears to be all farmland in the area but there are also large tracts with scattered trees and a pretty thick wood-lot further north. Obviously an area with sufficient food since she is hanging around the region. Sawgrass is near 6 of ARCI's other GPS-tracked swallow-tailed kites - birds from all over the SE including Jacksonville, Suwannee River, Sanibel, West Palm Beach and Louisiana and Mississippi.

09.06.19 Received data from Sawgrass this morning. Had not heard from her for 4 days primarily since she was going over the Darien Gap in Panama. As you can see, she made it though and is now in Columbia. Her route is very close to last year's southerly flight (turquoise line on picture). Guess she's learned the route. Mountains coming soon so we'll probably lose communication for several days. Will update as data come in.

09.01.19 She's still cruising right along and has made it to Panama already. Hope the updates continue.

08.30.19 Sawgrass is again on the way south. She is now nearing Costa Rica and is following a path similar to last year. Here's a photo of her position for the last three days.

08.25.19 Since we had not received an updated position for Sawgrass since Aug 17, I thought Sawgrass would be well on her way across Central America. Not so! She apparently has found a nice spot near the Yucatan coast and has spent the week cruising around the area. Hopefully she's found a good food supply and is putting on fat for the next leg of her journey.

Hope she enjoyed Cozumel!

08.15.19 Our Sawgrass has the pedal to the metal! She's in the Yucatan already - just 4 days since she was in central Florida. See the attached map (red dots are this year's track). Really good thing is that she took the Cuba route as opposed to directly across the Gulf. Don't know if its safer but at least its mostly over land.


From Gina Kent:

You are probably aware that Sawgrass hasn't checked in for a month now. She was crossing the Andes in southern Colombia. She's in a lot of vast open land and could very well be out of cell range. We've seen this before, so I am hopeful! Her radio is our longest-lasting GSM! The manufacturer promised at least 2 years of data and we have definitely reached that threshold. Again, I'm hoping the transmitter will thrive beyond those expectations.

Dark Arrow on the other hand is doing great. Moving daily between Sawgrass Lake Park and Weedon Island.


Just a quick update on Sawgrass. Not sure what your last one was but in the space of a month she has moved from Florida to Columbia! This year's flight path is essentially the same as last year but she seems to have it down pat - little to no deviations - just a constant movement south. In the GE photo attached you can see that she was true to her migration pattern. Unless she deviates or spends some time refueling, she should be in Brazil/Bolivia in less than a month.



06.03.18 From Dr. Gabe: After looking at Sawgrass's position for the last few weeks, I took a trip up to that area as we suspect Sawgrass may be nesting. The wooded area behind the houses near the bird's location is a total swamp; the primary trees are cypress with lots of knees currently under water. The cypress trees are basically a veneer near the back of the homes and extend maybe 200' after which they become broad-leafs of varying species and are shorter. This latter stage extends to the railroad track that bisects the wooded area near the development. I surveyed as much of the woods as I could from the road without seeing a nest. I did speak with two residents. Both have seen the Kite(s) flying but neither had seen them go into a tree and land. Both are willing to have an observer come into their back yard or use their yard as an entrance to the swamp. I also took a ride along a road that runs to the north of the potential nesting area. You can see lots of trees from the road but no sign of a nest or bird. We probably need to get up there early and spend the day watching for kites flying in and out of the area or, if a nest is spotted, any food transfers.

5.28.18 After bouncing around most of North Pinellas and western Hillsborough County, Sawgrass seems to have settled down in one place. She may be nesting as her location has been pretty much the same (Lat and Long) for about 2 weeks. Initially she had a few excursions north and south but for the last several weeks has not moved from the position on the first figure marked with the larger yellow dot. Its possible she is nesting. Why choose a spot in someone's back yard on a little patch of trees rather than an open forested area? Guess the tree really suited her.

Sawgrass 05-21-18
Sawgrass 05-21-18 close

05.08.18 Sawgrass seems to be finding new and exciting (for her) places to check out. She is moving further and further north into Hillsbrough County and is now north of Westchase in the Citrus Park area. She certainly does not seem to be inclined to settle down and nest. We're getting daily updates so tracking her is now very easy. Can't predict what she will do next! I've added a wide view of the area so you can see her overall movements since early April.

Sawgrass 05.08.18

05.05.18 An update from JoAnna:

A pair of Swallow-tailed Kites are present in the park [Sawgrass Lake], giving the locals a show of courtship displays. We hope they are on nest by now, and hope to see some fledged Kites come June. Our tagged Kite, Sawgrass, returned to the park on April 4th. She was at the Park in the beginning of the month, roosting just North West of the park. . The last week in April she has been roosting in Safety Harbor. I wonder where she will be in May?

04.04.18 SHE'S BACK!!!!

Made it into town at 0100 on April 4. She had to give us one more scare though and rather than keeping over land for the remainder of her journey she had to head out to sea around Carabelle, FL and cross open water until landfall again at Gulf Hammock, FL. I don't know what this bird loves about water but we'll have to hope that she continues to make the crossings. We'll see if she finds a mate this year and successfully breeds. Given her successes for the past two years of migration it would be nice for her to pass those genes on to offspring.


Guess she got enough to eat so the journey continues! She's on her way back and the last data point show she just returned to FLORIDA! Probably has passed through Pensacola by now.

Sawgrass 3-31-18

03.30.18 Looks like she was feeling hungry after her long flight so she went to check out some nearby crop lands for a meal. Hopefully she was able to fill herself up before going to roost by the river. So, not much progress east but we'll see what she does tomorrow.

Sawgrass 03 29 18

03.28.18 Well she did it again! I guess she was in such a hurry to get home that the long way around through Cuba and South Florida was too much work so she did the obvious --- flew straight across the Gulf of Mexico. Guess she had a good tail wind as it took her less than 2 days!

She is now heading for home and, more importantly, has no more large bodies of water to cross!

03.25.18 Sawgrass seems to have the pedal to the metal. She's now near the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and, hopefully, heading for Cuba. She seems to be following her southern track so the odds are good she will continue. We'll know more in a day or so.

Sawgrass 03-25-18

03.21.18 Sawgrass has found the way! She is basically following her southerly track in the opposite direction; heading N up through Central America. She's in Costa Rica right now (see photo) and making good progress.

Sawgrass 3-20-18

03.17.18 Here's a quick update on Sawgrass's location. She did not take the westward turn and head directly up to the Isthmus of Panama but continued north to the Caribbean coast of Columbia. It appears she had second thoughts about a long water crossing and turned westward to hit land again in the Isthmus region. She then turned north into Panama. Hopefully she will continue to fly over land.

Sawgrass 03-17-2018

03.14.18 Phew! I think everyone can breathe a sigh of relief as both of our charges have checked in and appear to be doing fine. We were worried about Sawgrass because of a lengthy period of no data but she seems to be on track for the remainder of her migration. She is now in Columbia (two photos, one showing her trip from southern Brazil and another closer shot of her current location). As you can see the last data point shows a westward curve which we hope means that she is heading for the Isthmus of Panama rather than the coast and a possible flight across water. That is one thing we don't want her to do. We should have a good idea of her direction in the next several days.

Sawgrass 3-14-2018
Sawgrass 3-14-2018 detail

01.09.18 Brazil Sawgrass has not sent us any data since Dec. 27, 2017 but the following two Google Earth photos will give you an idea of where she is and the type of environment she is enjoying.

She is in SW Brazil in the Mato Grosso dol Sul ( means"Thick Bushes of the South") region which is both heavily forested and is also a major agricultural area. Alas, very few cell towers. As you can see in the second photo she is staying around fields of some type of crop. The area grows soybeans, sugar cane, cotton, corn,as well as cattle. Obviously there are plenty of insects for our Swallow-tailed Kite! Hopefully she will get close to a cell tower soon!

Sawgrass 12-27-17
Sawgrass 12-27-17

12.15.17 Finally ! More Data Finally got some data from Sawgrass! I've attached one photo showing the general area of southern Brazil that she is still in and another that shows the type of landscape she is hunting and roosting in daily. At least we have a check in to show she is still active.

Can't say the same for Dark Arrow. No new data since Nov. 27. The attached photo gives his location on that date. He appears to have been on the golf course north of 62th Ave. N. Did he leave? Find a better place? Just have to wait and see.

12.14.17 Sawgrass

11.07.17 SAWGRASS IS BACK! Sawgrass has reappeared! She is in western Brazil. Unfortunately we don't have her data from when she disappeared at the end of Aug. in Columbia until reappearing in Brazil. She spent a lot of time in one area which appears to be a major agricultural region. Probably plenty of insects. She then headed further south to another agricultural area . Hopefully the missing data will get downloaded at some point. However its good to know she is alive and well. Just hope the transmitter continues to function!

Here are two views - one that shows her reappearance in Brazil with the void in the data from Columbia southward and another that shows the farmland area where she spent almost 3 weeks before heading further south.

Sawgrass 11-6-17
Sawgrass 11-6-17 detail

10.24.17 We have no update from Sawgrass. We may not have an answer until spring when she would normally turn up at Sawgrass Lake Park.

10.3.17 No data has been uploaded since 8.31.17, however, Sawgrass is in a location nearly devoid of cell towers. Gina Kent, ARCI, tells us that it isn't uncommon for birds in such areas to not report for over a month.

8.28.17 Sawgrass is progressing south and is now in Panama. She is following her track from last year throughout Central America. We'll see what her direction is after she gets through Columbia. Will she go back to Bolivia as she did last year or head to Brazil where many STKI from Florida spend the winter?

Sawgrass 8.28.17

8.14.17 Sawgrass did a perfect migration flying south through Florida, across the Florida Straits to Cuba, along the length of Cuba and across the Yucatan Channel to Mexico. She then followed the coast to Belize where she seems to have stopped for a couple of days.

Sawgrass 8.14.17

(6.16 - 4.17) Sawgrass the Swallow-tailed Kite has returned to Pinellas County ‘s Sawgrass Lake Park after flying over 16,000 miles in ten months. Her entire migration track was from June 2016 through April 2017.

While in in Georgia and North Carolina, she fed on insects to build up energy supplies for the migration before heading to South America. Taking the long route, she traveled across the Gulf of Mexico then followed the coastal areas of Central America down to an area in Bolivia where she spent several months. She started her northern migration in late January/early February. All went well until she arrived in southern Columbia where her transmitter started working intermittently.

Sawgrass entire journey

Google Earth track of Sawgrass' entire journey

Next, we received data when she made it to Honduras. Then again lost contact until Sawgrass made landfall near Franklin County in the Florida panhandle. Subsequently she showed up in Sawgrass Lake Park, her point of origin. Shortly thereafter her transmitter downloaded all of the stored data so we now have her complete route from Columbia to Sawgrass Lake Park (see 1st photo).

From Colunmbia to Sawgrass Lake Park

Google Earth track of Sawgrass from Columbia to Florida © ARCI

Becky Bartley photographed Sawgrass on April 13, 2017 at Sawgrass Lake Park (see above), just a day after we received the data from Sawgrass in the panhandle area. She made it from north Florida to Sawgrass Lake Park in less than 24 hours. The transmitter can be clearly seen on her back.

(3.30.17) After being out of touch for almost 3 weeks, Sawgrass finally passed over a cell tower. Currently, she is in Honduras and still heading north.

Wide view of 3-30-17

Wide view on 3.30.17

There is a long void of positions. However, I'm not sure why. From southern Colombia to the first position in Nicaragua took 17 days over a distance of 2526 kilometers. That's really hoofing - or flapping it!

Hopefully, there will be better cell tower coverage for the rest of the trip and we will have a better idea of where she will take off point for her flight over the Gulf. Then I hope for strong southerly winds to bring her home quickly.

Close up view on March 30

Wide view on 3.30.17

(3.1.17) Sawgrass Northern Trek

Sawgrass is headed north. Green points point indicate north route. She is currently in Northern Bolivia/western Brazil. Refer to the blue dots for her southbound track is shown in blue dots.

Not many cell towers in the area over the past two weeks. No new updates since March 1st.

Near western Brazil

Closeup view

Wide view

Wide view

(2.10.17) Sawgrass Latest Activity

Sawgrass was at the east boarder of Paraguay. She stayed there a few weeks before continuing east northeast into Brazil where the majority of our GPS-tracked Swallow-tailed Kites spent the winter season. She is now on a northward course following the same track of our other GPS-tracked birds that are ahead of her. She is 500 miles back from Palmetto, our second-to-farthest bird, and 1,400 miles from Bullfrog the Swallow-tailed Kite that is farthest north. Interesting that Bullfrog and Sawgrass are our two birds that nested closest together in Florida’s Tampa Bay area, and they are the “book ends” of our 2017 migration story. - Gina Kent

Sawgrass has traveled approximately 474 kilometers. See smaller red icons for the latest positions. From the last point in the lower cluster (Feb. 10) to the end point of the track on Feb. 13. - Gabe Vargo

Sawgrass traveled 424 km from 2-10 to 2-13

Closeup view

Sawgrass' latest travels

Wide View

More updates as they become available.

(2.2.17) Sawgrass In Paraguay

Sawgrass as of Feb. 2 (blue data points) seems to have found an area that has food and shelter. Most of her excursions are within an 8 km area with the furthest points approximately 18 km out.

Select the image for a larger view.

Near Laguna Pora

Wider view of Sawgrass' location

(1.19.17) Sawgrass In Bolivia/Paraguay

A Google Earth (GE) image of Sawgrass' journey from Bolivia to the eastern border of Paraguay.

Jan 19th

The pink dots and line are the latest leg of the journey. She traveled 374 kilometers on the last day of this trip.

(1.11.17) Sawgrass in Argentina

The latest positions for Sawgrass the Swallow-tailed Kite (STKI) as of Jan. 11, 2017. She has moved into a northern corner of Argentina. There's one wide view photo to show her general location, one close up for a better idea of the type of area she is in, and a final with a broad yellow line which shows the distance traveled on Jan. 8 - 43.26 km. She has then hung around this area west of some agricultural fields in N. Argentina.

Wide view (Click on image for a larger image.)

Wide view

Close view

Close view

Flight path

Sawgrass' flight path

(12. 27.16) Sawgrass along Bolivia and Peru border

Sawgrass finally checked in at the latest locations as of Dec. 27. Refer to the blue dots. Earlier locations are shown by the various colored lines.

Click on image for larger view.

(11.8.16) Sawgrass in Bolivia

Closeup of Sawgrass' travels

Closeup of Sawgrasses' travels

Sawgrass' overall flight.

Sawgrass at the border with Argentina. (10.31.16)

Over Columbia (9.16.16)

The latest info on Sawgrass with maps of her journey from Florida to southern Mexico from Aug. 9 through Aug.29.

The second map is of her journey from Southern Mexico to Panama from Aug. 29 to Sept. 16.

Sawgrasses' journey
Sawgrass latest route.
Route of Swallowed-tailed Kite

Route of Swallowed-tailed Kite