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Living with Birds 21 Facts on Red Kite Tweetapedia

21 Facts

Red Kite

  1. The reintroduction of the red kite to England and Scotland has been one of the major conservation success stories of the last 20 years.
  2. In the early 1930s, only two breeding pairs of red kites were known to survive in the British Isles, both in central Wales.
  3. Careful protection of the Welsh kites helped the native population increase slowly, with 20 breeding pairs in 1967, 30 in 1978, 50 in 1988 and 80 in 1992.
  4. Today the Welsh population is thought to number between 750 and 900 pairs.
  5. The first reintroductions of red kites to England and Scotland took place in 1989, with the English introductions in the Chilterns, the Scottish birds on the Black Isle.
  6. Reintroduced birds bred for the first time in both England and Scotland in 1992.
  7. The English population increased rapidly, as birds started breeding at one year old, unlike Welsh birds that often don't breed until their third summer. In addition, clutches were larger, with more young fledged per pair than in Wales.
  8. Following the success of the early introductions, new releases followed at a number of different sites, including Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Central Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway.
  9. The reintroductions succeeded because the habitat was able to support a healthy population. The birds had been exterminated because of persecution, not loss of habitat.
  10. It was the advent of the breech-loading shotgun that led to the kite's final demise in England, where a long-stranding war had been waged against these birds, with bounties paid by parishes for kite bills.
  11. Illegal poisoning remains a threat to carrion eating birds like kites, even though the bait may have been laid to kill foxes and crows. In 2007, there were 12 confirmed cases of kites being poisoned in Scotland.
  12. Historically, the kite was associated with towns and cities; here it was valued as a scavenger, helping keep streets clean.
  13. Shakespeare makes several references to kites, such as Autolycus in The Winters Tale, warning that when the kite builds, look to lesser linen. This is a reference to the thieving habits of nest-building kites.
  14. Kites hunt on the wing, soaring and circling over open ground. They are mainly carrion eaters, but are quite capable of killing small mammals and birds.
  15. Road-casualty pheasants, rabbits and squirrels form an important part of the diet of the reintroduced kites in England.
  16. However, considering their size they are not very powerful, though they have been recorded robbing much bigger raptors, such as white-tailed eagles, of their prey.
  17. In the Chilterns, the kites' enthusiasm for carrion is valued by deer stalkers, who leave the entrails from shot deer for the kites to clean up.
  18. Kites are surprisingly lightweight. In the spring, adults weigh around 900gm, which is considerably less than a mallard.
  19. Though Britain's kite population is booming, this is not the case in many other European countries, where numbers are generally in sharp decline.
  20. It is thought that Britain's kite population could eventually reach around 50,000 pairs, which is more than double the current world population.
  21. Old English names for the kite range from puttock to gled and glead; a number of place names, such as Gleadthorpe in Northamptonshire and Gledehill in Yorkshire, are reminders of these names.
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