YRK Newsletter (20)


Newsletter – Issue (20)

Sightings reported from an increasingly wide area show that kites are continuing to explore new locations, though there has still been no confirmation of breeding pairs to the south of Leeds. However, a particularly exciting development is the increase in sightings of kites in the North Nottinghamshire, North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire localities, they having become a regular sight as far north as the Doncaster area. It is likely that these are predominantly kites which have spread northwards from the well-established Midlands population, arising from birds released in Northamptonshire in the mid-1990s. Regular travellers down the A1 may well have witnessed this northerly progression which is following a pattern noted in other Red Kite release areas. Maybe it should come as no surprise that their direction of travel roughly coincides with that of the prevailing wind.

Map. We have a new feature on the website in the form of a map which shows the distribution of reported kite sightings. Currently, only records for 2018 are shown - but we hope to include separate maps for previous years which should show how the population has gradually progressed.


Breeding monitoring continued in 2018. All of the sites which had been checked in 2017 were again visited. Pairs were located at 22 new locations, though several of these are likely to have been relocations rather than new pairs. However, as is usually the case, not all sites previously occupied were again active. Indeed, as is indicated in the table below, the overall figures for 2018 show 4 fewer territorial pairs. Nine fewer pairs were recorded as having bred and there were 12 fewer successful pairs. Whereas it might have been expected that the number of young raised would have reached the 200 mark, only 179 were recorded. It is difficult to account for these lower figures, though it is suspected that the weather may have been a significant factor, particularly in the number of nests (16) which failed at the egg stage. Only the East Yorkshire pairs bucked this trend, the number of pairs located there increasing from 8 to 11, all of which were successful.

Table 1






West Yorkshire

66 (71)

61 (71)

52 (60)

94 (102)

North Yorkshire

47 (49)

45 (47)

35 (42)

68 (79)

East Yorkshire

  11 (8)

11 (8)

11 (8)

17 (13)


124 (128)

117 (126)

99 (110)

179 (194)

Average young raised per successful pair = 1.83 (1.84) ~ Figures in brackets are for 2017


A broad indication of the extent of the breeding range is the fact that the two furthest apart confirmed nest sites are almost 50 miles from each other. One of this year’s young birds had a lucky escape. It was fished out of a Koi Carp pond not far from its nest. It was fortunate that the gardener was on duty that particular day!

Persecution continues to be a widespread problem, in particular affecting a range of species in North Yorkshire. At least 44 Red Kites are known to have been either shot (15) or poisoned (29) since Yorkshire releases began in 1999. Only three of those shot recovered sufficiently to be released. It is strongly suspected that those victims which are found are the tip of the proverbial iceberg, given the vast wide-open spaces in Yorkshire in which others have undoubtedly gone undetected. The number of confirmed poisoning cases has reduced in recent years, the UK figures for 2017 showing just 9 recorded incidents involving 11 birds of various species – one of which was a kite poisoned near Knaresborough in December, too late for inclusion in Issue 19. However, shooting and trapping offences still widely occur.

It is disappointing that North Yorkshire continues to top the RSPB’s annual UK list of offences against birds of prey and owls. In response to this dire situation, North Yorkshire Police launched ‘Operation Owl’ in the spring of 2018, a high profile attempt to reduce the incidence of such offences in the region. They have invited the public to ‘Be Our Eyes and Ears’ and to report anything untoward. However, this did not prevent the shooting of yet another North Yorkshire kite which was found dead on the banks of the River Wharfe at Barden in July. Another Wharfedale shooting victim was found, critically injured, just inside the northern boundary of Harewood Estate in May and did not survive. These are both areas which are well frequented by the general public, the two victims having been found by walkers who spotted them from public rights of way. Another kite was shot in June in the Peak District National Park, the incident having been witnessed by a rock climber who was part-way up a crag at the time. It is highly likely that this was one of the birds from the expanding Midlands population, mentioned above. Although none of the people responsible for these offences were identified and charged, the cases show the importance of visitors to the countryside keeping an eye open for possible victims of wildlife crime and reporting them – see below.

The Harewood shooting may well have resulted in more than one victim. It is likely that the shot bird was one of a pair from a nearby active nest, below which the predated remains of a young kite were found a short time later. It is suspected that this could have occurred whilst the remaining parent was away from the nest looking for food.

Rat poisons continue to be a problem, two Yorkshire kites having died in 2018 from feeding on rats which had been poisoned. The two occurrences were not linked – being found by walkers many miles apart – but in each case, traces of the usual trio of poisons was found (Brodifacoum, Bromadiolone and Difenacoum).The effect of the ingestion of these poisons is cumulative – building up in the kite’s system until reaching a toxic level.

Suspected wildlife crime should be reported immediately to the Police on 101. Ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer and request an incident number. If there is an indication that poisoning is involved (eg obvious poison bait or multiple deaths), it should also be reported to the Wildlife Incident Investigations Scheme (WIIS) on 0800 321600.

Many persecution victims have been found by members of the public whilst visiting the countryside. You may wish to enter these contact details on your mobile phone so that you have them to hand if you find something suspicious. If you do find anything of this nature, please make sure that you do not touch it as poison(s) might be present. Please also avoid disturbing the immediate area as it could be a potential crime scene. Further information on dealing with casualties can be found on the website.

No apologies are made for the strong emphasis on persecution issues in this Newsletter. The situation in our countryside is now so serious that any opportunity to publicise it is being taken. Horrendous wildlife crimes continue to occur, many of which are not publicised. Cases frequently do not get to court because of the difficulties in obtaining sustainable evidence. Anyone wishing to discuss these issues may do so by contacting

RSPB Investigations who have a confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101 and email reporting facility at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The RSPB has published an online Raptor Persecution Map Hub showing details of confirmed raptor persecution incidents from 2012 to 2017. It can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/RaptorMap

Accidental deaths are reported from time to time. In August the remains of a kite were found at the foot of a power-pole on the edge of a wood near Otley. Mounted on the pole was a transformer with large exposed terminals. The remains of the bird were too far decomposed for the cause of death to be determined, but it is a reasonable assumption that it had come into contact with the exposed live terminals and fallen to the ground below. The situation has been drawn to the attention of Northern Powergrid who have undertaken to fit shields around the terminals to prevent further problems. Similar problems have been experienced elsewhere and it is disappointing that the fitting of safety shields is not obligatory at the time that such transformers are erected.

Reports of kites regularly frequenting new areas are particularly welcome. This helps us to confirm new breeding pairs and monitor the progress of the expanding population. They can be reported through the ‘Contact Us’ facility on the website.

Contacts – via website as above:

Doug Simpson MBE.

Nigel Puckrin (East Yorkshire).

Simon Bassindale (North York Moors).

Acknowledgements. Thanks again to the many landowners and their representatives, gamekeepers, farmers, members of the public and veterinary practices who have assisted this year. The ongoing financial support from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for Red Kite monitoring work is very much appreciated.