Red Kite recent deaths - August 2018
Unfortunately, we have news of two further Red Kite deaths, bringing the total so far in 2018 to five. All of them were found by members of the public whilst out in the countryside. Details of the fifth bird will be posted once the results of toxicological testing are known.
DEAD RED KITE FOUND ON 12/07/18 NEAR BARDEN, NORTH YORKSHIRE
A walker found this bird, lying dead on the banks of the River Wharfe near Barden. He reported it to Bolton Abbey Estate Office who immediately contacted the authorities and arranged for its retrieval. It was taken for X-ray examination, which revealed the presence of a single piece of lead-shot in its body cavity. There was a fresh entry wound consistent with the bird having recently suffered this injury.
North Yorkshire Police have appealed for information and a member of the public has offered a reward of £1000 for information leading to the identification of the person responsible.
DEAD RED KITE FOUND NEAR OTLEY ON 05/08/18
Whilst collecting blackberries on a field margin near Otley on 05/08/18, a local resident found the remains of a Red Kite. It was lying directly below a power pole on which was mounted a large transformer with exposed live terminals and cables. The bird was too decomposed to enable the cause of death to be established, though its location suggested that electrocution was a strong possibility. The incident was reported to the power company who undertook urgent action to ensure that the transformer and cables were made safe.
Update on recent Red Kite deaths
At a time when we would hope to be bringing you news of the nesting season, we have sadly two updates on birds who died earlier on this year:
DEAD RED KITE FOUND NEAR ELDWICK, WEST YORKSHIRE, ON 19/03/18
This bird was found dead on a bridleway by a field studies group. The testing of samples from it have shown that its death was most likely due to the ingestion of rat poison. The findings indicate that there were traces of three different rat poisons in its system, suggesting that it had fed on dead rats which had been poisoned in the course of legal pest control. Background levels of the three substances brodifacoum, bromadiolone and difenacoum feature regularly in kites tested for suspected poisoning. However, in this case, the level of the brodifacoum findings were higher than usual and may have significantly contributed to the bird’s death.
Such deaths are referred to as secondary poisoning, reflecting the indirect means by which the death has been caused. However, whilst there is no suggestion of a human element having been involved in deliberately causing the death of the bird, it is a requirement that users of rat poison should employ good housekeeping techniques to ensure that regular searches for the bodies of rats poisoned by this means are undertaken. They should be disposed of by safe means to prevent them getting into the food chain of species such as Red Kites and Barn Owls. This is in addition to the moral obligation placed on users of poisons to minimise any adverse incidental effects which they may have on wildlife and the natural environment.
This is the thirteenth confirmed rodenticide related death of a Yorkshire Red Kite since releases began in 1999.
INJURED RED KITE FOUND AT HAREWOOD, WEST YORKSHIRE, ON 10/05/18
This bird was found by two walkers on a public right of way on Harewood Estate. It was retrieved and taken for veterinary examination. It was found to have a badly shattered right wing. Its injury was so severe that it was put to sleep. X-ray examination revealed a piece of lead lodged in the elbow joint. The humerus was detached adjacent to the joint, having apparently been hit by another piece of lead.
The injured bird was found close to the northern boundary of Harewood Estate, near the junction of the A61 and A659 at the bottom of Harewood Bank. West Yorkshire Police launched an appeal for information about the incident, but none has been forthcoming.
The White Feather
We had some photographs shared with us on Facebook by Terence Porter.
Image copyright of Terence Porter
He asked "Interested to know if this one is one of your regulars. It has a white feather in the middle of each wing?"
Image copyright of Terence Porter
Well we thought that we had better consult our oracle in Doug Simpson to come up with an explanation.
"The white bits are normally not visible as they are covered by the adjacent feather. Being visible like this often occurs when moulting which, in juveniles, can start anytime around now."
"Having had another look I realise that this is an adult and that there’s no obvious gap in the wing. In this case it could be that it’s either something to do with how the bird has been preening (which I would suspect to be unlikely) or some form of plumage anomaly."
Red Kite Sightings in South Yorkshire and The Peak
A Red Kite was seen in the Derbyshire Peak District on 10th March 2018. It’s an intriguing situation. There is very little evidence of birds from the Yorkshire releases having moved southwards within the county.
Apart from a handful of breeding pairs in East Yorkshire, on the southern end of the Wolds, none of our birds are known to have bred south of a line drawn east to west through Leeds City Centre. We cannot say for certain that no single birds have ventured southwards (see below), but we suspect that kites being recorded currently in North Nottinghamshire, North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire are more likely to be the advanced guard of the population spread from the Midlands releases. These occurred in Northamptonshire in the mid 1990s and they’ve been creeping slowly northwards for several years, evidence of this being the increasingly northerly sightings of kites by travellers heading southwards on the A1.
This is largely guesswork, as we no longer fit wing-tags which would have indicated the area of origin if the tag co-ordinates had been recordable. In fact, the only confirmed sighting of a definite Yorkshire bird in that area was somewhere around 2002 when a bird from a Harewood nest was seen at Chatsworth. It returned to Harewood, paired up and bred there.
We’re currently watching a South Yorkshire situation where we have a pair of kites behaving as though they might be thinking of nesting. They’re not in the most secure of places, but it’s their choice! If they do breed it will be a landmark in the reintroduction process - the first pair to breed in the South Yorkshire area for more than 150 years – possibly longer.
Image from Ste Jones
The story of the female red kite, tagged Orange/Red 7
Our story begins in 2000 at Harewood Estate, West Yorkshire when the first confirmed successful Red Kite breeding in recent times occurred in Yorkshire. It involved an older female, which had been rescued from a cattle drinking trough in the Chilterns and cared for by the Zoological Society of London and a young male of Chilterns origin, released in the Yorkshire reintroduction programme by Doug Simpson MBE at Harewood in 1999.
They bred successfully in subsequent years and in 2003 produced two young which were tagged as Orange/Red 6 and Orange/Red 7. The former stayed in the Harewood area whilst the subject of this story decided to move to East Yorkshire where it was found in the company of Orange/Red 23.
They bred successfully in 2005 and to the best of our knowledge O/R 7 has done so every year since.
Initially, with permission from the estate of the nest location we were able to closely monitor the pair through the breeding season. Knowing the red kite’s habit of ‘decorating’ the nest with all sorts of articles, in one year the area beneath was covered in tissues. It was as though the birds had managed to carry a box up to the nest and proceeded to use the contents!
But then in 2008 an incident, nothing to do with Yorkshire Red Kites occurred elsewhere that prompted the estate to remove our access for close monitoring. In this same year we noted that in viewing from the public highway, the male seen breeding with Orange/Red 7 didn’t have any wing tags showing, so it is possible the original male, Orange/Red 23 had lost his tags. However this particular male bird had lost one of his left wing primary (the big ‘fingers’ at the end of the wing) feathers making him easy to distinguish right through the breeding season where he gained the name of ‘Gappy’ from one of our observers. So from that year on, instead of being able to count young in the nest we had to wait until any young that successfully fledged were to be seen flying above the nest site viewed from the public highway.
This method of monitoring has remained the same in subsequent years with the added complication that the estate owners have planted a double row of Leylandii conifers, not usually seen on farmland in the area, that have gained considerable height making our observations difficult.
However what we do know is that Orange/Red 7, now 14 years old successfully raised at least 1 young in 2017 that brings her total to at least 21 since 2005.
Our thanks go to Michael Flowers for capturing these images of her in Oct 2017 showing that the grand old lady is still flying free.