Saturday, 26 March 2011

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

The re-introduction of the magnificent Red Kite (Milvus milvus) is a conservation success story. I was living in Oxfordshire when the programme to return this imposing scavenger to The Chilterns was in its infancy. With full protection in place, a slow recovery began but the population was first limited by myxomatosis, drastically reducing its rabbit prey, and then by persistent agri-chemicals. Then, a reintroduction project using young birds from Sweden began in The Chilterns in 1989. And this has proven so successful that this population has provided young birds for further reintroductions both elsewhere in England and in Scotland. Once a familiar site scavenging over London, Red Kites were driven to extinction in England by human persecution by the end of the 19th century. A small population survived in Wales, but there was little chance of these birds repopulating their original areas. Between 1989 and 1994, kites from Spain were imported and released into The Chilterns by the RSPB and English Nature. Red kites started breeding in the Chilterns in 1992 and now there are more than 300 breeding pairs in the area. I returned to the area a few years ago as a mature student studying zoology at Reading University and the change in the bird's fortunes was evident, witnessed by skies at some times darkened with swirling crowds of kites soaring on updrafts. When I wasn't attending lectures (and, I confess, often when I should have been) I would head to the areas where I knew I would see England's vulture in numbers. Yesterday, I had the chance to do the same and captured a number of images of this powerful, elegant raptor…

All Canon 1Ds MkII



  1. What wonderful wonderful images. They are such magnificent birds. I have spotted them for the first time in my part of Kent. I was absolutely amazed to see them and intially thought I had not id them correctly.
    Have seen them several times now, I am positive they are Red Kites.

  2. Hi Cheryl. Thanks for your kind comment on the images. There have been sightings of Red Kites over Kent for a couple of years now; as the population increases, so their range will widen as they search for new breeding territory. So I'm sure you're right. The only possible confusion might be with Buzzards, but the kite's tell-tale tail would be the clincher at distance.

  3. I well remember seeing Red Kite when I walked the Ridgeway many years ago. Now, of course, there is a growing population in Gateshead and surrounding area.