Several Red Kites soar over the skies of Ardeley. The photos in this article were taken by Paul Leverington, whilst waiting to pick up his son from Rural Care.
Red Kites are one of the success stories of reintroduction programmes. The red kite became extinct in England in 1871 and in Scotland in 1879. By 1903, when protection efforts started, only a handful of pairs were left in remote parts of central Wales, and so it was a high priority for conservation efforts. The birds were reintroduced to England and now the red kite is listed in the Amber List of birds of medium conservation concern due to its stage of recovery from an extreme historic decline in numbers.
Red Kites mainly feed on carrion (dead animals) and worms, but are opportunistic and will occasionally take small mammals.
They construct their nests high up a tree with dead twigs and line it with grass and sheep’s wool.
A couple of days prior to egg laying, kites decorate the nest with rubbish and oddments they find near the nest. Paper, rags, crisp packets, carrier bags, even underwear and toys have been recorded.
If nesting is successful, the same nest is used the following year. At times they will use an old buzzard or raven nest.
Those individuals that reach maturity can expect to live an average of 10 years. The oldest known wild kite was 26 years old.
There are probably around 1,800 breeding pairs in Britain (about 7 per cent of the world population) —about half in Wales, with the rest in England and Scotland. However, they are now so successful; the RSPB can’t survey them on an annual basis.
Unfortunately, poisoning is also the most frequent cause of death of these magnificent birds in England. Red kites are especially vulnerable to the modern rodenticides used to control rats, since they are skilled in finding the corpses of poisoned rats.
Article researched and written by co-farmer Sean.