What is a Red Kite?
The red kite is a magnificent, big and beautiful bird of prey, with a distinctively forked tail; russet plumage and a wing span which measures more than five and a half feet.
Kites require open farmland with scattered woodlands and trees.
It is well known that kites eat mainly carrion (dead animals), scavenging in an opportunistic manner. They will also take live prey including some small mammals and birds, beetles, other large insects and earthworms.
Large numbers of kites sometimes gather at favourable feeding sites and communal winter roosts.
British birds are non-migratory but young birds often ‘wander’ in their first two winters.
Kites build large, twig nests (decorated with wool or scraps of plastic and paper) in tall trees within woodland, sometimes on the top of an old squirrel drey or crow nest.
UK History of the Red Kite
The species was once common across Great Britain; indeed, historically the species was probably our most widespread bird of prey. Three hundred years ago, it was a common sight over much of northern England and in medieval times, it fed in the streets of London (where it was given special protection for its useful role in cleansing the streets).
Between the 16th and 19th centuries red kites suffered severe persecution. They died out, in part, because of a loss of food supply as human society became tidier but, in the main, their disappearance was brought about because of human persecution. This took the form of both shooting and poisoning.
By the end of the 19th century, just a handful of birds remained in Wales and this remained the case until just a few years ago.
They had probably gone from northeast England, as breeding birds, by the 1840s. Therefore, it is safe to say, that they have not bred in our region for almost 170 years.