Red Kites (Milvus milvus) are distinctive birds of prey with a large wing span of up to two metres, a forked tail, and a beautiful mixture of black, grey, reddish brown and chestnut plumage. They are opportunistic scavengers and foragers, primarily feeding on carrion and are known to nest in woodlands with a preference for oak and beech trees.
Once a common sight
Red Kites were once a common sight throughout the UK until their persecution between 1850 and 1900, and they became extinct in England in 1871 (RSPB, 2014). A small remnant population survived in the old Oakwood valleys of mid-Wales, and in 1903 they were given protection. There was just one single breeding female bird at this time; by 1960 the population did not exceed 20 pairs and their range did not expand. The slow reproductive rate was said to be due to the lack of genetic variability and limited food availability.
These birds have since been introduced into several areas of England including South of England (the Chilterns AONB), Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Oxfordshire, where they are now numerous. Currently they are not widespread in Warwickshire, however the West Midland Bird Club and Warwickshire Biological Records Centre have received increased records of the Red Kite across the County. Steve Haynes, County bird recorder for Warwickshire, reports that: “The first pair in modern times bred in South Warwickshire last year and the number of Red Kites is estimated to be much higher than reported, although they are not to be expected to be sighted in the County on a day out”.