Red Kite Information & FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions

Article text
Flying through Chilterns beech woodland
AT A GLANCE - FROM PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION THROUGH TO 'AND FINALLY...'!


PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION:

Q - What is the wingspan of the red kite?
A - The kite has a wingspan between 5 and
5½ ft (1.5 – 1.7m)


Q - How much does the kite weigh?
A - Between 2-3lbs (900 – 1300g)


Q - Is there a difference between male and females?
A - At a glance it is difficult to tell the difference between the sexes. Although the female is generally larger and heavier than the male, there is sometimes an overlap.


Q - Do the young birds look the same as the adults?
A - No. The juveniles have a paler, more 'washed out' look. Their tail isn't as deeply forked as an adult's.

Click here for more DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS



REINTRODUCTION AND POPULATION

Q - Where did the kites come from that were reintroduced to the Chilterns?
A - The chicks were sourced from Northern Spain.

Q - How many other reintroduction sites are there in England and Scotland?
A - Eight, including the Chilterns. The latest reintroduction project is taking place in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Q - How many breeding pairs are there in the Chilterns
A - It is no longer possible to give precise numbers, but the current estimate (2008) is between 400 and 500 breeding pairs.

Q - Are kites taken from the Chilterns to other reintroduction sites?
A - Yes. Chicks have been provided to various reintroduction projects, including more recently Gateshead in the North East of England, and currently Aberdeen in Scotland.

Click here for more REINTRODUCTION INFORMATION



BREEDING, NESTING AND CHICKS
A Red Kite chick taken from the nest to be ringed and wing-tagged.


Q - When do they begin to breed?
A - Usually in their second or third year.

Q - Where do they build their nest
A - Often close to the edge of a wood, to enable easy access to and from the nest. A large nest made of twigs is built in the fork of a tree, quite often in beech trees in the Chilterns.

Q - When do they lay eggs?
A - Usually in April

Q - How many eggs do they lay, and when do they hatch?
A - Between one and four eggs are laid. In the Chilterns, clutches of two and three is quite common. They are incubated for approximately 30-34 days mainly by the female, the male also helps out. Both parents feed the chicks

Q - How long do the chicks stay in the nest?
A - The young birds stay in the nest for about seven/eight weeks before making their first flight.Click here for more BREEDING & NESTING INFORMATION


MISCELLANEOUS

Q - What is their diet?
A - They feed mainly on carrion, will occasionally take live prey such as small mammals and invertebrates (worms and beetles).Click here for more DIET & FEEDING INFORMATION


Q - What is their lifespan?
A - They quite often live into their teens. The oldest recorded kite in the wild (in Germany) was 26 years old, and in captivity one kite lived for 38 years.

Q - Do they migrate?
A - The kites in the Chilterns do not migrate, they are resident year round.

Q - What are those large coloured tags on the wings of some kites?
A - These are wing tags, which help to identify individual birds, and indicate how old the bird is, and where it was hatched.

Click here for more detailed WING TAG INFORMATION



Q - Are they protected by law?
A - Yes. The red kite is listed Schedule I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and has full legal protection.
Click here for more LEGAL PROTECTION INFORMATION



Q - Why did they disappear from England and Scotland?
A - They were persecuted and disappeared at the end of the 19th century. Egg collectors, poisoning and shooting contributed to the demise of the bird.


AND FINALLY...

Watch out for that graceful kite you see elegantly dropping their legs and raising their tail in mid flight!

I have been on the receiving end several times, the worse time being when one particular kite was flying quite low (unfortunately for me!)and appeared to expertly target the right side of my face. I can assure you they are particularly good at hitting the bullseye!




All images © Helen Olive