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

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

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.