Animal Park: Ben Fogle discusses 'tumultuous' past with birds
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Red Kites, otherwise known as Milvus milvus, have a rusty reddish-brown body. These scavengers mostly eat dead animals, road kill and worms. The Red Kite is attracted to shiny and colourful objects and often incorporates them into their nests. These birds nest in broadleaved woodland and search for food in the open countryside as well as in suburban areas and towns.
Thirteen Red Kites were flown by British Airways jet from Spain into the Chilterns in July 1990.
Now more than 30 years later there are almost 2,000 breeding pairs of Red Kites in England.
Red Kites are recognisable by their grey/white heads with a reddish-brown body.
These birds are slightly larger than buzzards and have slightly longer wings.
Red Kites are commonly found in the Chilterns, mid-Wales, north and central Scotland, the East Midlands and Yorkshire.
They mainly eat carrion and are too weak-footed to kill any prey larger than a small rabbit.
In 2019, two toddlers were alleged to have been left with cuts after a close encounter with Red Kites in Buckinghamshire.
The incident took place in Marlow when the children, aged three and five, reportedly had their sandwiches stolen by a Red Kite.
In the wake of the alleged incident, the RSPB issued a warning to the public advising them against feeding Red Kites.
The statement read: “Birds of prey tend to avoid humans as a rule and reports of incidents like this one are, happily, extremely rare.
“These days Red Kites are a wonderful sight soaring above the countryside, particularly in the Chilterns, where their reintroduction has been such a great success.
“This is an example of what active conservation can achieve – a beautiful bird that was on the verge of extinction in the UK as little as 150 years ago now colonising much of its former range across the UK.
“Red Kites are primarily scavengers and travel far and wide in search of food.
“They rarely have any problem finding dead animals and other things to eat, so there really is no need for people to be putting out food for them.”
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Large numbers, attracted to food can become a public nuisance and may encourage persecution.
There is also an environmental health risk if scraps of cooked and uncooked meat are left lying around.
High numbers of Red Kites can discourage other bird species, particularly songbirds, as well as other wildlife.
Red Kites typically live for 25 to 30 years.
The biggest threat to Red Kites are at the hands of humans.
A major threat to this species is the risk of poisoning.
Persecution of red kites is much reduced nowadays, but it does occasionally still happen.
Red Kites have perished as a result of eating illegally poisoned baits left out for other animals (e.g. foxes), they have also been known to die after picking up the corpses of legally poisoned rodents.
They are also very susceptible to disturbance when they are nesting so should be left alone during the breeding season.
The main threats they face are illegal poisoning by bait left out for foxes and crows.
There is also secondary poisoning by rodenticides, and collisions with power cables.
These problems are continually being addressed to reduce their impact on the kites.
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