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Red Kites Success in UK

Results of one of Britain’s most successful conservation programs was spotted in the skies above England during the recent RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, reports the RSPB.

At the turn of the 20th century, there was just a handful of red kites left in the UK, and the few that remained were confined to remote Welsh valleys. The populations had become decimated through poisonings and other persecution.

In some areas of the UK illegal poisoning remains a significant problem. Red kites were reintroduced in the same number and years at the Black Isle of northern Scotland and in the Chilterns in England. However, while the Chilterns population increased to over 400 pairs, there are still barely 50 pairs of red kits around the Black Isle. A recent scientific study showed deaths as a result of illegal poisoning explain almost all of this difference.

UK red kiteA jigsaw of red kite reintroductions across the UK began in 1990 to help bring the kite back to its former range and have proved to be one of the greatest conservation success stories in the UK. Seven per cent of the world’s red kite population is now in the UK.

In 2011, more red kites were recorded in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch than ever before. Sightings of red kites with their 5 ½ foot wingspans increased 130% since last year, and they moved to number 53 in the rankings of most frequently seen birds in gardens. Only the birds that landed in gardens were officially recorded, but numerous comments on survey forms and online forums suggest even more were seen flying over gardens. The survey results are the latest proof that red kites are again prospering in the wider countryside.

The RSPB has a series of red kite ‘Date with Nature’ projects around the UK this summer, enabling you to see the birds up close. Sites include Ceredigion, Argaty and Knebworth. If you’re in the UK, to find one near you visit  www.rspb.org.uk/datewithnature.

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Alison Wheatley

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