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The Snail Kite’s northern distribution limit reaches Southern Florida and the southern limit in the American continent is in Northern Argentina. However, the distribution is not homogenous throughout the continental mass, for in Central America it is present only in very small areas of Mexico, Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala, in the Caribbean Islands it is found only in Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago, and in South America it is in Colombia, northern Venezuela, Suriname, northern part of the Guyanas, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina (Birdlife International, 2012).
Distribution outside the Americas
It is not found outside the Americas.
Snail Kites inhabit open freshwater wetland areas, including shallow lake edges and freshwater marshes (Ridgely et al., 1989; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1999) usually characterized as palustrine-emergent, long hydroperiod wetlands with areas of shallow water interdigitated with vegetated wetland (Cowardin et al. 1979; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1999). The substrate of such wetlands areas is typically an organic peat-based soil over a limestone or marl bedrock layer (Davis, 1946). Low trees and shrubs are often interspersed in wetland habitat, although excessive foliage cover may inhibit Snail Kite foraging behavior, as their snail prey are too difficult to see (Bergmann et al., 2013).
There are no known fossils of Snail Kites. However, fossilized shells of some Apple Snail (Ampullariidae) species have been discovered that suggest accumulations due to predatory activity of Snail Kites (Martin et al., 2006). Fossils and subfossils of other raptor species, including eagles and hawks, have been discovered (Ducey, 1992; Goodman et al., 1995; Suarez et al., 2007).