Red Kite Breeding

breeding

Typical Red Kite Nest

Red Kites usually lay 2-3 eggs. They nest in trees, sometimes building on top of old crows' nests or squirrel dreys. Nests are often untidy structures, kites having a habit of decorating them with a wide variety of materials. The first successful Yorkshire nest in 2000 had a teddy-bear's head and a tea-towel in it. A nest which was visited in 2006 had a St George's flag in it, this being discovered less than an hour before the kick-off in the World Cup match between England and Paraguay! A downside to this collecting habit is the amount of plastic and polythene which they incorporate into the nest, this sometimes forming an impervious layer which can result in waterlogging and the loss of eggs or young.

Funeral service sheet found beneath nest

When breeding has been completed, much can be learned by licensed observers about what the kites have been feeding their young, by examining the contents of debris beneath nests. Whilst carrying out one of these searches on an estate in East Yorkshire, the above item was found. It was shown to the estate owner, who recognised it as being from a funeral service, held in the local church earlier in the year. Needless to say, these kites are now known as our 'religious pair'!

The Yorkshire project is unique, having had successful breeding in its first year. The female of the pair was an older, rehabilitated, bird released in September 1999. Despite problems along the way – including a significant imbalance of sexes amongst the released birds (roughly twice as many males as females); losses of birds due to poisoning; protracted release period through shortfall of young birds and the loss of a year through Foot and Mouth Disease – this exceptional early breeding trend continued.

Although the nucleus of the breeding pairs is close to the release area, recent years have seen encouraging signs of an increasing geographical spread. A totally unexpected development has been the breakaway population which has formed in the southern section of the Yorkshire Wolds. Two birds from the initial 1999 release became the first confirmed breeding pair in that area for 150 years, since when, numbers have been boosted by young which they raised, further birds moving in from Harewood and arrivals from release areas in North East England and the East Midlands.

Details of the annual breeding figures since 2000 are shown in Table 1 below. The sub-county breakdown for 2019 is shown in Table 2.

TABLE 1: RED KITE BREEDING FIGURES FROM 2000

YEAR

TERRITORIAL

PAIRS

BREEDING

PAIRS

SUCCESSFUL

PAIRS

YOUNG

RAISED

YOUNG PER

SUCCESSFUL

PAIR

2000

4

3

1

2

2.00

2001

8

8

8

15

1.88

2002

10

10

9

20

2.22

2003

19

19

15

32

2.13

2004

27

24

19

44

2.32

2005

40

33

28

52

1.86

2006

45

40

36

75

2.08

2007

47

47

38

79

2.08

2008

69

67

58

115

1.98

2009

77

67

65

117

1.80

2010

84

77

70

147

2.10

2011

82

74

58

119

2.05

2012

94

92

78

     145

1.86

2013

          99

88

75

144

1.92

2014

112

106

91

171

1.86

2015

92

84

74

139

1.88

2016

84

82

72

131

1.82

2017

128

126

110

194

1.84

2018

124

117

98

179

1.83

 2019 89  88  69  100  1.45


NOTE: Surveys were incomplete in 2015 and 2016. 

Breeding monitoring continued in 2019, albeit that circumstances beyond our control prevented this being as thorough as usual. This resulted in many locations not being checked at all and some only early in the breeding season to confirm occupation of territories. A rough estimate is that around half of potential sites were confirmed as occupied. The table below shows such figures as are available, the bracketed figures being from 2018 when more thorough monitoring was possible.

TABLE 2: SUB-COUNTY BREAKDOWN OF BREEDING FIGURES IN 2019

AREA

TERR. PAIRS

PAIRS BRED

PAIRS SUCC.

YOUNG

West Yorkshire 

39  (66)

39  (61)

25  (52)

37  (94)

North Yorkshire

43  (47)

42  (45)

38  (35)

54  (68)

East Yorkshire

7  (11)

7   (11)

6  (11)

9  (17)

Totals

89 (124)  

88 (117)

69   (98)

100 (179)

Average young raised per successful pair:  1.45 (1.83)


The figures shown relate to pairs actually found. There are undoubtedly many pairs which are not located.
The Winter Roost counts across the county in Yorkshire showed a huge increase from previous years, also providing evidence that the birds breed well in 2019.