Red Kites were released on the Harewood estate in 1999 as part of a UK conservation initiative. Harewood Estate was originally part of a partnership involving the RSPB, English Nature, & Yorkshire Water PLC. Their spectacularly successful re-introduction to Lowland areas of Yorkshire is now complete. The Red Kite now has a self-sustaining population, whose numbers are gradually increasing yearly.
This is a far cry from a species which was persecuted to extinction in England and Scotland by the end of the 1800s. At the last count there were over 300 Red Kites in the area around Harewood and Yorkshire.
Scientific name: Milvus milvus
Length: 60-65cm (males on average are smaller than females)
Weight: Up to 1.2Kg
Lifespan: Can live up to 25 years, but average life expectancy in the wild is 8-10 years.
The Red Kite has a grey/white head with a reddish brown body and a deeply forked tail.
Swedish: Glada Old English: Puttock Midlands: Buzzards Cornish: Scoul Essex: Crotchtail Welsh: Barcud Yorkshire: Gled.
The Red Kite has a mew-like “weoo-weoo-weoo” call which is rapidly repeated.
The Bird Garden is a great place to view Red Kites as they wheel through the air looking for food. They are primarily scavengers, eating mostly carrion (dead birds and mammals) as their feet are too weak to kill any prey much bigger than a small rabbit, though they will feed on chicks, small mammals and invertebrates such as worms, beetles and even flies. They have been know to scavenge dead fish and chicks from the feeding points in the Stork and Heron enclosure in the Bird Garden and during open air concerts at Harewood they have been seen swooping to collect dropped food from the hotdog and burger vans!
During the breeding season in Spring and Summer you can often see around 10-20 Red Kites above and around Harewood, depending on weather conditions. In Winter when they return to roost, flocks of over 70 birds can be seen circling on air thermals.
Although the reintroduction campaign was successful, they still suffer from several threats in Great Britain as a whole. Causes of death and injury include being hit by vehicles, electrocution on power lines, shooting, poisoning and egg collecting. Birds may also die through eating rats killed with rat poison and if they feed a poisoned rat to their young, all the Red Kite chicks may die.
Harewood Bird Garden is working with Yorkshire Red Kites, headed by Doug Simpson, who has been involved in the reintroduction project from the beginning, in partnership with Yorkshire Water PLC to provide a rehabilitation pen. The enclosure gives injured Red Kites time to recover in an area away from people, for eventual release into the wild again. Along with Harewood Estate we help provide staffing to feed and care for any injured Red Kites brought to Harewood.