The updated story of the female red kite, tagged Orange/Red 7
Our original 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.
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.
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."