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Bird Watcher Spots Snail Kite in S.C.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — 

A bird watcher spotted the endangered snail kite in South Carolina for the first time, and the animal's steady diet of crawfish may help scientists find the species an alternate food source, wildlife officials said.

The snail kite is an endangered species seldom seen north of central Florida. The bird is on the endangered species list in part because of the shrinking habitat of its main food source, the apple snail.

The bird's taste for crawfish surprised scientists, and it could lead to experiments with crawfish ponds in Florida.

Lloyd Moon, 76, first spotted the bird last week at a crawfish farm near Rimini, about 35 miles southeast of Columbia.

Moon hunkered down at one of his normal birding sites May 14, expecting to spend a few hours before heading to an appointment in Charleston. He spotted a small, gray raptor unlike any he had seen before.

"I reached for my camera, and before I turned back around, he was gone," Moon said.

He didn't have time to search for the bird, but he came back the next day and so did the bird.

When it finally turned toward Moon, he could see the bird's yellow-and-red coloration, verifying what he had suspected.

The bird, oblivious to enthusiasts snapping photos, seems to enjoy the spotlight and has stuck around for others to come see it.

The South Carolina Bird Records Committee will verify Moon's find, said panel member Nathan Dias, executive director of Cape Romain Bird Observatory.

"This guy is doing the species a favor," Dias said of the bird. "He's a trailblazer."

Adding a bird to a state's list of confirmed species is every birder's dream.

"I can't think of anybody who's seen a rarer bird," Moon said.

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Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com

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