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  • Writer's pictureMair

The Red Kite: Back from the brink

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Earlier today, a Red Kite swooped from the woodlands on the farm and glided up to perch on the lamppost – it’s wingspan must have been just under a metre, a mature male who was circling the hay field to spot some food.

If you’ve travelled around Wales, you’ll know that seeing a Red Kite these days are much more of a common site than they used to be.

Only 70 years ago this species of bird began to make a recovery after intense human persecution, from the mid 1800s until the early 1900s.

So, in 1871 the bird became extinct in England, and 1879 in Scotland. This is due to a variety of reasons - from a disease which killed off their main food source, habitat conditions and lack of females.

According to the RSPB, by 1903 there were only a handful of pairs left in Mid- Wales. Even then, the Red Kite population lacked females so the population remained critical until the 1960s.

The issue became apparent, and a mixture of breeding programmes and factors of birds starting to breed at lower altitudes, by 1995 there were more than 100 breeding pairs in Wales.

Top Tip: If you want to see around 500 Red Kites all in one go once lockdown is over, visit a feeding station. A great one is Gigrin Farm in Rhayader which has been supporting red kites for decades. Just check their opening times before you travel due to the lockdown in Wales.

Whenever I saw one as a child in the 90s I was told that they were rare.

Thankfully, since then, they’ve been on the rise, with 350 – 400 pairs by 2003, and a hair raising statistic that from 1995 – 2014, the breeding species increased by 1020%.

It’s great news for England and Scotland too - populations have recovered thanks to a successful re-introduction programme by the RSPB, which shows the numbers slowly expanding.

So, next time you see a Red kite, remember, it wasn’t such a common site 100 years ago!

To find out more details about the conservation programme, here's a link to case studies from the RSPB:


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