Swallow-tailed Kites Photo Tours
Swallowtail Kites start arriving in mid to late February. During March they can be seen flying with Spanish moss and sticks as nesting material, while they fix up their told nest or choose to make a new one. Babies start to hatch in April.
Kites will also be hunting for their favorite food such as lizards, frogs, and other baby birds. Sometimes they just carry a small nest back to their home to eat at their convenience.
May - June
Babies are usually seen above the nest in May. As the babies get larger in the nest and take up more room, the adults spend less time in the nest. Larger Babies means more food. Parents will hunt at the same time (lots of drop offs) or perch near the nest, allowing for some incredible photo opportunities.
May is the peak activity for the Swallow-tailed Kites to hunt, perch, and feed their babies before they start to branch and fledge starting in early June.
Starting in June/July, recently fledged Swallow-tailed Kites and their parents will all be sharing the skies and hunting for food to fatten up before their long flight back to Brazil.
The Swallowed-tail Kites begin to roost in large groups in the early morning starting in late July or early August. This is a fantastic opportunity to see a large group of kites in a tree at once, or maybe attempt to get the elusive takeoff photo you always wanted!
Time & Location
My Swallow-tailed Kite Tours take place in Immokalee, Florida. We start at Sunrise and go for 3 1/2 hours to take advantage of the prime sunlight & wildlife action that the morning offers.
The ground is currently wet and muddy in some areas on the way out to where we will be photographing. Wear lightweight long sleeves and pants. Plan on your shoes getting wet & a little muddy, or bring waterproof boots if you’d like to have dry feet.
My customers regularly get THE BEST photos they have ever taken of Swallowed-tailed Kites on this tour. At the same time, weather and wildlife do not always cooperate with our plans. Wind can vary, altering the flight paths of the Swallow-tailed Kites.
Aside from helping you with your gear and camera settings, my goal on the trip is to educate you on where to go and when to look for specific species of animals. It might take you a couple of days to get every single shot you want, but at least you will know where to look. Because of the varying contrast of these birds, they can be some of the hardest birds to photograph. The whites & the dark blues (that look almost black in most light) make for a much tougher bird than your typical Great Egret or Osprey.
“Had a fantastic kite tour with Andrew Mease who spent weeks finding the nesting pairs of swallow-tailed kites in South Florida. Kites spend most of their time up in the air and are very difficult to photograph at a close distance. Their nests are very difficult to locate and photograph. I highly recommend getting a photo tour with Andrew, with only 2-3 weeks left in the nesting season contact him ASAP.”
- Ronald K. (5/12/2019)
What should I bring for photo gear?
You’ll definitely want your big glass. For capturing these birds in flight, I recommend using at LEAST 400mm on a Full Frame camera. To get nice photos of the nest, you’ll want as much reach as possible. With 750mm effective focal length, you will still be cropping your photo. I recommend bringing a teleconverter or a crop sensor camera just to take some photos or video of the nest. You may find that handholding is easier for the birds in flight, even if using a short focal length.
-A tripod & Gimbal for nest photos & Video. (Also for some birds in flight)
What type of non-photography gear should I take?
Bugspray (the bugs really aren’t bad at all – most of the time you won’t need it, but doesn’t hurt to have it)
Lens cloths - Your lens may get foggy due to high humidity if you swap cameras/lens combinations ion the field. I recommend leaving your lens in your car the night before if you can to avoid 20-30 minutes of a fogged lens. These birds are already hard enough to photograph without worrying about wiping your lens constantly.
What’s the skill level?
This trip is best suited for photographers who have at least some experience with their cameras and have done at least a some bird in-flight photography. Photographing swallow-tailed Kites can be difficult in many aspects. Choosing proper Exposure Compensation to fit the end result you desire will be important with these Swallow-tailed Kites. The high contrast between their white and dark navy feathers can make for a tough shot, even in good lighting conditions. Sometimes you may want to blow out your background but get the dark shadow details of the bird, sometimes you may want to avoid blowing out the whites and losing detail in your photo, depending on lighting conditions.
First, you should be comfortable with operating your camera. You should also be familiar with – and able to change – the following options on your camera:
AF Modes / Areas
In addition, you should understand what shutter speed, F/Stop, and ISO do. (The Exposure triangle)
Is there a lot of walking?
We will be walking for 15-20 minutes each way. Some of the way to our photo spots are lightly wet and muddy after the recent rains.
What should I wear?
The weather in Southwest Florida is very hot and humid. I recommend avoiding cotton if possible. I prefer dry-fit style shirts (like columbia) and I recommend wearing lightweight long pants.
How do I sign up?
Fill out the form below to start the signup process if you’re ready to book / put down your deposit. Thanks!