Red Kite Breeding

breeding

Typical Red Kite Nest

Red Kites usually lay 2-3 eggs. They nest in trees, sometimes building on top of old crows' nests or squirrel dreys. Nests are often untidy structures, kites having a habit of decorating them with a wide variety of materials. The first successful Yorkshire nest in 2000 had a teddy-bear's head and a tea-towel in it. A nest which was visited in 2006 had a St George's flag in it, this being discovered less than an hour before the kick-off in the World Cup match between England and Paraguay! A downside to this collecting habit is the amount of plastic and polythene which they incorporate into the nest, this sometimes forming an impervious layer which can result in waterlogging and the loss of eggs or young.

Funeral service sheet found beneath nest

When breeding has been completed, much can be learned by licensed observers about what the kites have been feeding their young, by examining the contents of debris beneath nests. Whilst carrying out one of these searches on an estate in East Yorkshire, the above item was found. It was shown to the estate owner, who recognised it as being from a funeral service, held in the local church earlier in the year. Needless to say, these kites are now known as our 'religious pair'!

The Yorkshire project is unique, having had successful breeding in its first year. The female of the pair was an older, rehabilitated, bird released in September 1999. Despite problems along the way – including a significant imbalance of sexes amongst the released birds (roughly twice as many males as females); losses of birds due to poisoning; protracted release period through shortfall of young birds and the loss of a year through Foot and Mouth Disease – this exceptional early breeding trend continued.

Although the nucleus of the breeding pairs is close to the release area, recent years have seen encouraging signs of an increasing geographical spread. A totally unexpected development has been the breakaway population which has formed in the southern section of the Yorkshire Wolds. Two birds from the initial 1999 release became the first breeding pair in that area for 150 years, since when, numbers have been boosted by young which they raised, further birds moving in from Harewood and arrivals from release areas in North East England and the East Midlands.

Details of the annual breeding figures since 2000 and of the sub-county breakdown in the latest year for which figures are held, are shown in Table 1, Yorkshire Breeding 2000 to 2013 and Table 2, Breeding Breakdown 2013, below.

 

TABLE 1: RED KITE BREEDING FIGURES FROM 2000

YEAR

TERRITORIAL

PAIRS

BREEDING

PAIRS

SUCCESSFUL

PAIRS

YOUNG

RAISED

YOUNG PER

SUCCESSFUL

PAIR

2000

4

3

1

2

2.00

2001

8

8

8

15

1.88

2002

10

10

9

20

2.22

2003

19

19

15

32

2.13

2004

27

24

19

44

2.32

2005

40

33

28

52

1.86

2006

45

40

36

75

2.08

2007

47

47

38

79

2.08

2008

69

67

58

115

1.98

2009

77

67

65

117

1.80

2010

84

77

70

147

2.10

2011

82

74

58

119

2.05

2012

100

95

80

149

1.86

2013

100

89

75

144

1.92

NOTE: The figures shown relate to pairs actually found. There are undoubtedly an increasing number of pairs that are not located.

 

TABLE 2: SUB-COUNTY BREAKDOWN OF BREEDING FIGURES IN 2013

 

SUB-

COUNTY

 

TERRITORIAL

PAIRS

 

BREEDING

PAIRS

 

SUCCESSFUL

PAIRS

 

YOUNG

RAISED

YOUNG PER

SUCCESSFUL PAIR (AVERAGE)

 

West Yorkshire

53

49

42

76

1.81

North Yorkshire

35

29

22

46

2.09

East Yorkshire

12

11

11

22

2.00

Totals

100

89

75

144

1.92