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.



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.



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.



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:


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. 


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.

White Feather1aImage 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?"

White Feather2
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."

White feather

"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."

So the challenge is on folks - keep your eyes peeled around Harewood and let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. should it be seen again.

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.

Ste Jones Harewood

Image from Ste Jones