YRK Newsletter (19)


Newsletter – Issue (19)

Sightings. The steady flow of reports of Red Kite sightings to the website shows that they are continuing to explore new areas – both urban and rural. The nature of some of the areas where they are now being seen contrasts starkly with the habitat in those remote parts of Wales which were the only places in the UK where they could be seen just a few decades ago. However, there is still a relative dearth of sightings from south of Leeds. In fact, putting on one side the East Yorkshire satellite population, our most southerly confirmed Yorkshire nest site is some 12km due east of Leeds City Centre and to the north of the A1(M)! This is a puzzle as there is apparently much suitable habitat in the southern part of the county, with historical records of presence some 200 years or so ago. A possible clue is that the general pattern of movement of kites away from UK release sites has largely coincided with the direction of the prevailing south-westerly wind. Indeed it is possible that areas south of Leeds may eventually be colonised by kites which are spreading slowly northwards from the well-established Midlands population.

Breeding monitoring continued in 2017. Two sets of figures are shown below. Full monitoring of all known occupied areas in West Yorkshire had not been possible in 2015 and 2016, but resumed this year. Table 1 below shows the confirmed figures (bold type) for 2017 for all of those areas which had been checked in 2016 (figures in brackets). Table 2 shows the overall monitoring findings for 2017, including the previously excluded area

Table 1






West Yorkshire

36 (36)

36 (35)

31 (29)

57 (52)

North Yorkshire

49 (41)

47 (40)

42 (36)

79 (66)

East Yorkshire

  8 (7)


8 (7)

13 (13)


84 (92)

82 (84)

72 (74)

131 (139)

Average young raised per successful pair = 1.84 (1.82)


Table 2






Overall Total





Average young per successful pair: 1.76


A total of 27 new nest sites was discovered, although several of these may have involved pairs which had decided on a change of location. Some of the new pairs were on estates well away from existing confirmed sites, so confirming that they are travelling further afield in their search for suitable, unoccupied, habitat and significantly extending the population range in the process. This was the primary objective of the release project and it is encouraging to see it being achieved.

Three long-established nests succumbed to the combined effects of wet weather and gravity. The kites’ well known habit of taking all manner of rubbish, notably plastic, to their nests makes them impermeable – the nests that is! The build-up and retention of water makes the nest too heavy for the often flimsy supports on which it is based and it falls to the ground. In two cases there were young in the nest. In one instance, a visit a couple of days later revealed the presence of a recently fledged young kite. There being no other nests in the vicinity, it is highly likely that it had left the nest before it fell down. In a fourth case, the young were found dead in a pool of water in the nest – yet more evidence of the curse of discarded plastic!

Persecution issues. The Illegal killing of Red Kites, whether by poisoning or shooting, has been a regular and unacceptable feature of their presence since releases began in Yorkshire in 1999. Most of the victims have died through feeding on poisoned baits placed in the open countryside – a practice which has been illegal for more than 100 years.

In 2016 there had been six victims confirmed in North Yorkshire (4 shootings and 2 poisonings), four of which had occurred in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The shooting of another kite in the AONB near Pateley Bridge in March 2017 led to unprecedented reactions on social media. The negative publicity and concerns about the level of wildlife crime in the area prompted immediate local action. Two local businessmen offered rewards for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible. The RSPB doubled the figure and a further contribution from Crimestoppers brought the total up to £4000.

The Nidderdale AONB has an atrocious record for Red Kite persecution. Twenty one (60%) of the total of 35 confirmed Yorkshire illegal deaths have occurred there. These figures take no account of other victims not found or of other species which have been similarly affected. It is particularly appropriate and especially welcome that local citizens have now decided that those members of their community who are responsible for these acts should stop tainting the reputation of the area through their blatant disregard for the welfare and protected status of these birds.

One persecution case not involving Red Kites is particularly worthy of note, it being indicative of the type of crime long suspected as occurring in certain remote moorland areas. In May 2017 a pair of Marsh Harriers settled in the AONB on heather moorland, an unusual habitat choice for this species. The RSPB installed a covert camera to monitor progress. On a routine check of the nest a few days later, it was found that the five eggs it had contained had disappeared. Natural predation was initially suspected as the cause, but a review of the video footage revealed a very different story. The nest had been visited on several occasions by men carrying guns. Shots had been fired, apparently in an attempt to shoot the female as they disturbed her from the nest, and items believed to have been eggs were seen being removed. Two Marsh Harriers were subsequently seen in flight in the area, suggesting that the adult birds had escaped without serious injury. Details of the case can be found at:


Both of the above cases are being investigated by North Yorkshire Police.

Coincidentally, wildlife persecution has become an issue prompting public concern and comment in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the eastern boundary of which is adjacent to the Nidderdal AONB. This arose as a result of a YDNPA public consultation, preparatory to it drawing up its management plan for the period 2018 – 2023.

Anyone finding evidence of a suspected wildlife crime should report it immediately to the Police on 101, asking to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer and requesting 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 numbers on your mobile phone so that you have them to hand if you find something suspicious.

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 at www.yorkshireredkites.net

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.



Police are appealing for information after a red kite was found dead in Nidderdale.

(From https://northyorkshire.police.uk/news/police-investigation-red-kite-found-dead-nidderdale/)

On the afternoon of Saturday 11 March, a dead red kite was found near Greenhow, in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire.

An examination revealed the bird’s carcass contained what is believed to be lead shot.

PC David Mackay, a Wildlife Crime Officer of  North Yorkshire Police Rural Taskforce, said: “It has taken many years to re-introduce red kites after their near-extinction from the UK, and these magnificent birds can now regularly be seen in the skies over North Yorkshire.

“They are a Schedule 1 bird and have special legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. They feed on carrion and pose no threat to game birds, farmed animals or pets.

“I would ask anyone who has any information that could assist the investigation to get in touch with me.”

North Yorkshire Police are being supported in the investigation by Yorkshire Red Kites.

Anyone with information is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for PC 1452 David Mackay, or email. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please quote reference number 12170047155 when passing information.

Birdcrime 2015

RSPB report shows North Yorkshire again the worst region in the UK for the persecution of birds of prey.

"The RSPB's Birdcrime report summarises offences against wild bird legislation that are reported to the RSPB each year. We have published the report annually since 1990: it is the only centralised source of incident data for UK wild bird crime. 

For the first time we are presenting the Birdcrime report data in an interactive online format, to make them more accessible than ever before. Keep scrolling down to see headlines, incident maps and case studies for 2015"





With the confirmed shooting of six Red Kites in Yorkshire and the death from rodenticide poisoning of a thirteen year old female kite tagged in 2004 as Orange/Yellow 6 (O/Y6), it looked as though the figure ‘6’ was going to be our unlucky number for 2016. We had not, however, reckoned on a chance discovery and incredible coincidence involving another number 6.

(Picture of O/R6 by Maggie Bruce and O/R7 by Charlie Wright.)

In September 1999 I released a kite at Harewood which was probably 2-3 years old. We didn’t know what sex it was – in fact all that we knew about it was that it had been rescued from illegal captivity where it had been kept after being retrieved, apparently unharmed except for a soaking, from a Chilterns cattle drinking trough. After what was, in effect, its second rescue, it was taken to London Zoo for assessment – they dealt with all health issues relating to the re-introduction of Red Kites into England. It received a clean bill of health and we were asked if we would take it, in the knowledge that it would be fitted with a transmitter, enabling us to check that it was managing satisfactorily in the wild after its lengthy spell in captivity.

Following its release, it stayed around Harewood for a while before starting to venture further afield. It spent the best part of three weeks in the Lower Derwent Valley, not far from Wheldrake. There was no shortage of food, there having been a serious outbreak of Myxomatosis in the area. This was bad news for rabbits but Christmas come early for kites! It then moved north of Harrogate before moving off southwards again. The last signal received from its transmitter in 1999 was on 30th November and suggested that it could well be heading back towards the Chilterns, from where it had originated.

Ever hopeful that it might return, I kept checking the radio-frequency of its transmitter and in early 2000 detected a faint signal, still in a southerly direction. It got louder and eventually the bird made its way back to Harewood Estate, where it settled. During late April and early May I could tell that, though active, it seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time in a particular area. On investigating, I found that it was sitting on a nest and by the end of May two chicks could be seen. This was extraordinary as it meant that we had young kites in a nest less than 11 months after the release of the first 20 birds into Yorkshire in July 1999. That the older bird should have turned out to be a female was a double bonus, the sexes of the first 20 young sourced from the Chilterns having been subsequently determined from blood samples as being 14 males and only 6 females!

The male of the pair was one of the young released in 1999 which had bred at less than one year old. One of the young raised took after its father and also bred the year after its birth. None of the other reintroduction projects in the UK and Ireland have had such early successful breeding.

To return to the number ‘6’ story referred to above, this pair of birds continued to breed together and in 2003 they produced two young which were tagged as O/R6 and O/R7. Records of these two birds showed that O/R6 remained in the Harewood area whereas O/R7 moved out to the Yorkshire Wolds where she was detected in the company of O/R23, a kite of Chilterns origin which had been released at Harewood. They settled and bred on a Wolds estate.

On 28th November this year, whilst on a visit to Harewood, a lady who is a member of an East Yorkshire group – Birding with Flowers -  took a photograph of O/R6. Just a few days later, by a remarkable coincidence, that group was visiting a Wolds site when they saw O/R7 – creating an intriguing link between two birds which were raised in the same nest more than 13 years previously.     

The ‘Sixes and Sevens’ connections don’t end there. O/Y6, noted above as having been poisoned by rodenticide, and her sister O/Y7 who nests in an adjacent wood, were also raised by the same pair of adults.  

Doug Simpson
Yorkshire Red Kite Co-ordinator
December 2016