The Northern Kites Project

Northern Kites was formed to reintroduce and ultimately, re-establish the red kite as a breeding bird in northeast England.

Photo of a red kite in flight

The timescale for the project was 2004-2009.

Within the first three years of the project, the original aim was to release 80 kites. However, the project actually released 94 kites in total – 20 kites released in 2004, 41 kites released in 2005 and 33 kites released in 2006.

The kites were all released in Gateshead’s lower Derwent valley from two pens that were located in secure locations.  Once all the kites were released, it was announced that these pens had been located within the National Trust’s Gibside Estate and Northumbrian Water sewage treatment works.

The Northern Kites Project was unique in reintroducing red kites to a semi-urban environment, within 20 minutes of 1 million people and centred upon some of the areas of highest local deprivation in England.

The Northern Kites project was managed by the RSPB and Natural England, in partnership with Gateshead Council, Northumbrian Water, The National Trust and the Forestry Commission, with additional funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund and SITA Trust.

As well as bringing the kite back to the northeast region, the partners worked to provide opportunities for people to see these spectacular birds.

It was also the Partnership’s intent to show how a flagship biodiversity project, illustrative of the importance of a healthy environment, relates to and informs, all aspects of modern life. The project was believed to be a world first in re-introducing kites into an urban-fringe environment.

In essence, the Northern Kites Project comprised four key elements:

  • Wildlife - the return of the red kite to its former range in north east England;
  • People - the opportunity to give people and communities access to the kite, so that they can enjoy and learn about wildlife and the wider environment through the Project;
  • Economics - the chance to show how such a project can be good not just for wildlife and people, but also for the local economy;
  • Partnership - the illustration of how partners from the charitable, private and public sectors, working in an imaginative way together can better deliver rewards not just for wildlife but also to improve local people’s quality of life.

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© Northern Kites 2008