Between 2004 and 2006, 94 red kites were released in Gateshead, less than six miles from Newcastle City Centre (the original target for the Project was ‘up to 80 kites in five years’). Birds began to breed in 2006 and by 2009 a self-sustaining, and spreading, population had been established in the region for the first time in over two centuries. The Project experienced the lowest level of persecution and lowest mortality rate of any red kite release project. Northern Kite’s volunteers, contributed over 18,000 hours to the Project, exceeding the voluntary contributions target for the five-year Project in less than three years, and in July 2008, received the northeast’s Heritage Heroes award in the Nationwide Building Society’s Heritage and Community Awards scheme.
In July 2004, just weeks after the first kites were released, the kites were listed at No.40, in the Journal newspaper’s ‘100 reasons why it's Great Up North’. Over the lifetime of the Project 107 schools in the region (over 50 in Gateshead along), adopted red kites as part of the Northern Kites’ Adopt-a-Kite’ scheme and, at over 260 events, the Project made face-to-face contact with more than 58,000 people. The Project attracted three Ministerial visits over a four year period, in June 2005, August 2007 and October 2008.
The Project’s imaginative work with the business sector brought benefits not just to local people, but the kites and the businesses themselves. In March 2007, Go North East’s fleet of nine ‘Red Kite’ buses was launched. This carries over 3000 passengers daily between Eldon Square and Consett and, in November 2008, it won the UK award, as best branded bus in the country. On 2nd November 2007, Wylam Brewery launched Northern Kite, the region’s first red kite-themed beer. This is now the brewery’s second best selling product, and earned them £43,000 in the first year after its launch. It is estimated that over its lifetime, the Northern Kites Project supported 12.5 Full Time Equivalent jobs in the local economy, and generated a minimum of £1.72 million in economic activity, the majority of which filtered through to local companies. It has been calculated that, from visitor spending activity alone, the kites have added an absolute minimum of £160,000 per annum to the economy of the lower Derwent valley.
A vibrant, go-getting partnership has been maintained throughout the Project. A partnership that has found new ways to deliver, finding the expertise and knowledge embedded within the partner organisations that solved problems and delivered ‘value added’
By 2008, it was estimated that 100,000 people per annum were seeingred kites in the lower Derwent valley. Clearly, Northern Kites aspiration to bring stunning birds of prey right into the vibrant heart of the region and to make them available to people on a daily basis, had been realised.