Red Kites back from the Brink

It is fair to say that in the past, we Brits haven’t been very good at protecting our indigenous wildlife. Species such as the wolf and the beaver have been hunted to extinction, and other animals such as wildcats have suffered from crossbreeding with domestic pets. In the last 50 years however there have been steps taken to reverse this trend and there have been successful projects to reintroduce beavers in Scotland, for example.

The most successful reintroduction by far has been the project to save the British red kite, a rare bird of prey which is now returning to the skies across the UK.

History

photo of a red kite in flight
Red kites are one of the most effective birds of prey in the UK, but through the ages they have been seen as vermin, and a problem which needs to be dealt with. In the 1500s, there was legislation passed which allowed for the hunting of red kites, and by the end of the 1700s, the red kite had disappeared in England, Scotland and most of Wales. Just a few breeding pairs remained in the very remote mountainous areas of mid-Wales. The efforts of local people meant that the very small population in Wales was protected, but the situation in the rest of the UK looked grim.

Reintroduction

At the end of the 1980s the state of the red kite had reached a critical point, and efforts to save the species were stepped up. Breeding pairs of birds were brought from Wales, Sweden and other countries and suitable sites were identified to support the birds. Some of the areas where the birds were released include the Chiltern hills, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire and south west Scotland. All birds which have been released into the wild have been tagged, allowing the coordinators of the project to track them and find out which are the most successful release sites. There are now as many as 500 breeding pairs of kites in the UK but due to the historic problems with the species they are still on the list of endangered animals, having been downgraded to amber status from red.

Spotting Red Kites

The red kite is a large bird of prey and is very distinctive. People who know what they are looking for instantly recognise the birds, but for bird spotting beginners, some Brunton binoculars or similar are of great help. A red kite has a reddish brown body, white wing tips and a very distinctive forked tail. They are often seen soaring high in the sky as they look for small prey like voles or mice, and can sometimes be confused with other birds of prey such as buzzards or marsh harriers. Kids who are into bird spotting sometimes struggle with binoculars and getting them to focus properly, and a gadget such as the Brunton monoculars solves this problem perfectly. Never disturb the kites or their eggs. As they are still a protected species, there are stiff penalties for illegal egg collection.

Citations:

Trekitt is mountain and adventure sports store, they have a great range of Brunton binoculars perfect for spotting those Red Kites!

 

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