The story of the female red kite, tagged Orange/Red 7

Our 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.

They bred successfully in subsequent years and in 2003 produced two young which were tagged as Orange/Red 6 and Orange/Red 7. The former stayed in the Harewood area whilst the subject of this story decided to move to East Yorkshire where it was found in the company of Orange/Red 23.

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They bred successfully in 2005 and to the best of our knowledge O/R 7 has done so every year since.

Initially, with permission from the estate of the nest location we were able to closely monitor the pair through the breeding season. Knowing the red kite’s habit of ‘decorating’ the nest with all sorts of articles, in one year the area beneath was covered in tissues. It was as though the birds had managed to carry a box up to the nest and proceeded to use the contents!

But then in 2008 an incident, nothing to do with Yorkshire Red Kites occurred elsewhere that prompted the estate to remove our access for close monitoring. In this same year we noted that in viewing from the public highway, the male seen breeding with Orange/Red 7 didn’t have any wing tags showing, so it is possible the original male, Orange/Red 23 had lost his tags. However this particular male bird had lost one of his left wing primary (the big ‘fingers’ at the end of the wing) feathers making him easy to distinguish right through the breeding season where he gained the name of ‘Gappy’ from one of our observers. So from that year on, instead of being able to count young in the nest we had to wait until any young that successfully fledged were to be seen flying above the nest site viewed from the public highway.

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This method of monitoring has remained the same in subsequent years with the added complication that the estate owners have planted a double row of Leylandii conifers, not usually seen on farmland in the area, that have gained considerable height making our observations difficult.

However what we do know is that Orange/Red 7, now 14 years old successfully raised at least 1 young in 2017 that brings her total to at least 21 since 2005.

Our thanks go to Michael Flowers for capturing these images of her in Oct 2017 showing that the grand old lady is still flying free.

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