What do Red Kites eat?

Being scavengers they live mainly on carrion, things which are already dead, for example rabbits and rats. They will take some live prey, for example, mice, voles and the occasional small bird. At certain times of the year they will also forage for invertebrates, for example earthworms

Do Red Kites kill for food?

Red Kites do not have the power and strength of some Birds of Prey/Raptors but will take small mammals, for example mice, voles and the occasional small bird.

How can I tell the difference between an adult and a juvenile Red Kite?

Adult birds have a silver/grey head and a pronounced fork in the tail. Close inspection will show black tips to the tail. (Second/right image)
Juveniles are generally paler in colour with their head more brown and the tail is noticeably less forked and in flight do not seem as steady as the adult. (First/left image)
There will be little difference in size between the two.


What’s the difference between the male and female Red Kite?

The plumage of both sexes is the same with the female being very slightly bigger than the male.

How big are Red Kites?

Their wing span is up to 150cm (5ft) and including their tail, their body length is approx.60cm (2ft) They weigh between 900 and 1,300 grams

Where do Red Kites nest?

Red Kites nest in trees, sometimes on top of old crows nests or squirrel dreys. They sometimes have more than one nest around the nesting site and the female chooses which one she wishes to use.

How many eggs/young do Red Kites have?

They usually lay just the one clutch of 1 to 3 eggs. However, clutches of 4 eggs have been recorded, at least 2 Yorkshire pairs having raised 4 young.

How long do Red Kites live?

The oldest Welsh Kite so far recorded was ringed 24 years before it died. There have been several other birds that have approached 20 years of age

Where can I see Red Kites in Yorkshire?

In the Wharfe Valley around the Harewood Estate in West Yorkshire and on the East Yorkshire Wolds. Good views can be obtained from Public Rights of Way. See Ordnance Survey Explorer maps 294 and 297

Why do kites attend a communal roost?

Play’ is often common before the birds finally roost and maybe the ones that have found sufficient food earlier in the day and are ‘fed up’ have time on their hands. Play can be seen as carrying objects, twigs etc, dropping and catching them with others joining in. There are often aerial chases and mock fights, especially on windy days when not much energy is expended, giving young birds the chance to learn and improve skills. It may be that come the following day, hungry birds can ‘share information’ and follow other individuals to a known food source, sometimes called ‘network foraging’. It is also likely that unpaired young birds may find a mate in the opportunity to socialise at the communal roost.

At what age do Red Kites usually start breeding?

Normally in their second or third year, however several Yorkshire birds have been known to have bred successfully at 1 year old

What is the Latin name for the Red Kite?

Milvus milvus

What is the difference between a Red Kite and a Common Buzzard?

The Red Kite has a forked tail and a Common Buzzard has a fan-shaped tail as illustrated in the pictures below. For more detail see 'Is it a Red Kite or is it a Common Buzzard?'


         Common Buzzard                                                               Red Kite Image by Mark Hughes

What is the difference between a Red Kite's call and a Common Buzzard's call?

Please ensure that you have your computer sound turned on and volume up.

Name Play Duration
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Simon Elliott

2:13 min
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
Simon Elliott

1:17 min
Our thanks to Simon Elliott for these recordings. You can find out more about these recordings, including the background noises, by following these links:
Red Kite
Common Buzzard

I am concerned that the increasing numbers of small wind turbines in the countryside could affect local red kite populations.

There are currently no formal national guidelines relating to the siting of these small wind turbines. Neither is there any evidence that they might be causing problems for Red Kites. Yorkshire Red Kites (YRK) has been consulted regarding a number of these applications, especially those occurring in North Yorkshire in areas in which kites were known to be present. In the absence of any formal guidelines, consultations took place between YRK, Natural England and the RSPB. This resulted in an informal 'rule of thumb' being proposed whereby a turbine application in which the mast was at least 500m from the nearest boundary of woodland in which kites either bred or regularly roosted, would be accepted as 'ticking the box' from the Red Kite ecological viewpoint. If the intervening distance was less than 500m, the planning authority would require more information about the specifics of the particular situation. To our knowledge at least two local authorities, in North and West Yorkshire respectively, have adopted this guidance to assist them in the process of determining applications for small wind turbines. We would hope to see the 500m criterion become nationally accepted. It should be noted that different rules apply to windfarms where multiple, much larger, turbines are involved.

How far can a RK cover on a days foraging?

As far as they have to. This depends very much on food availability, what might be happening in the countryside - e.g. silage/hay cutting etc. which can be a source of food - and how strong the competition is - e.g. from both other kites and other species. In terms of how far can a kite fly in a day - we had one bird which, twice, got up in the morning at Harewood and was in the Chilterns by teatime. Given that they fly in big circles when travelling, it must have covered well over 200 miles in around 12 hours. It took around two weeks to come back again - it being uphill.

Have 'trackers' ever been fitted to RK's?

Yes, all our released birds were fitted with trackers, as were a number of birds raised in Yorkshire nests. Trackers had an effective life of around 30 months. The info in (1) above is derived from radio-tracking records.

When are we likely to see the young kites fledge and how long will parents keep feeding them? (asked end of June 2015)

Some young kites have fledged already. We've no hard and fast info as to how long they remain dependent on their parents but we know from when we released young kites between 1999 and 2003 that they very quickly became independent - to the extent that they started to find their own food, leaving that which was supplied for them. They must have very strong food-finding instincts.