On World Wildlife Conservation Day, IP Celebrates Swallow-tailed Kites’ Return Through Sustainable Forestry, Grant to Expand Conservation Efforts

Dec 4, 2023 10:30 AM ET

MEMPHIS, Tenn., December 4, 2023 /3BL/ - On World Wildlife Conservation Day, International Paper (IP) and longtime partner National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) are expanding the focus of their sustainable forestry partnership to support the return of iconic southeastern species such as the eye-catching swallow-tailed kites that once again are soaring among the treetops.

NFWF and IP, through their Forestland Stewards Partnership recently awarded a grant to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) to build upon a long-standing partnership between ABC, IP and the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) to encourage forest management practices on private lands that support a thriving community for people and wildlife. Much of the initial work has taken place in South Carolina where the presence of swallow-tailed kites, who feed on large insects, snakes and frogs, is an indicator that efforts to manage healthy forests are working. 

“Swallow-tailed kites are frequently described as the most beautiful hawks,” Emily Jo Williams, ABC’s Vice President of the Southeast Region, said of the birds with a 4-foot wingspan. “When you’ve got swallow-tailed kites, that means the whole ecosystem is providing things they need.”

The migratory birds that once were a common sight in summer over much of the Southeast are now mostly found in Florida and have been listed as endangered in the state of South Carolina, where IP, ABC and ARCI have been contributing to the birds making a comeback in properly managed forests.

“Sustainably managed forests benefit a lot of different bird species,” Williams said. “The grant from NFWF and IP will allow us to work with additional partners like Orleans Audubon Society and Mississippi State University to conserve kites throughout the Southeast and to focus on red-headed woodpeckers, a species of concern showing steep declines.”

Williams and Ken Meyer, ARCI Senior Research Ecologist and Executive Director, agree that International Paper plays an important role in maintaining forests that would otherwise be lost to development, and species like the swallow-tailed kite would likely disappear from the region.

“Sustainable forests are a really good thing for wildlife,” Meyer said. “If growing timber wasn’t such a productive industry in the Southeast, we wouldn’t have forests, we’d have houses. We’d have all kinds of things out here that don’t support the wildlife that these forests do.”

With ~86% of forested land in the Southeast under private ownership, IP’s professional foresters help landowners manage their timber sustainably and provide wildlife habitat they need.

“We have a 2030 goal of 100% of our fiber being sourced from sustainably managed forests,” said Jeremy Poirier, Senior Manager of Fiber Certification and Sustainability at International Paper. “The work with the kites and the work with the American Bird Conservancy helps us achieve that goal.”

As part of the program to ensure swallow-tailed kites continue to return to the South Carolina forests, ABC, ARCI and IP outfit some of the birds near IP’s paper mill in Georgetown with GPS transmitters that allow them to track their migratory patterns and habitat preferences to better understand their specific nesting, foraging and roosting needs. This information can help IP’s professional foresters and other forestry practitioners provide guidance and options to landowners that are interested in managing their forests to benefit swallow-tailed kites and other species with similar forest habitat needs. 

“This partnership between ABC, the timber industry, and ARCI has been one of the most gratifying things I have ever done,” Meyer said.


About International Paper
International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a global producer of planet-friendly packaging, pulp and other fiber-based products, and one of North America's largest recyclers. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., we employ approximately 39,000 colleagues globally who are committed to creating what's next. We serve customers worldwide, with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, North Africa and Europe. Net sales for 2022 were $21.2 billion. Additional information can be found by visiting www.internationalpaper.com

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion. NFWF is an equal opportunity provider. Learn more at nfwf.org.

About American Bird Conservancy
American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, conserve habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).