Back from the brink

Red Kite, John Hawkins, Surrey Hills Photography

We're thrilled that that red kites have successfully bred in the county for the first time in more than 150 years!

Red kites are large birds with deeply forked tails and wonderful, buoyant flight. They are predominantly scavengers, but will take small live prey such as voles, frogs and birds if the opportunity arises. The juveniles are similar in appearance to the adults, with less colouring and less of a forked tail.

This magnificent bird, which once bred prolifically across Derbyshire and the UK, but has been widely persecuted in the past.

There are no records of breeding in Derbyshire since 1863, and beyond the 1950s only a handful of pairs remained anywhere in the UK; these were restricted to remote Welsh valleys. During the 1990s there was an ambitious reintroduction project, which began in the Chilterns and elsewhere. This has proven successful. However, it has taken a further twenty or more years for a pair of kites to settle in Derbyshire due to their slow colonisation.

Red kite, Amy Lewis

Red kite, Amy Lewis

There are no records of breeding in Derbyshire since 1863

The county’s latest breeding pair of kites has chosen to settle in the National Trust’s park at Kedleston, which is just north west of Derby. Its impressive grounds attract a wealth of wildlife, which has proven popular with larger birds and mammals – including our breeding red kites.

Kites, like peregrines and hen harriers, are specially protected by law. Sadly many, as is the case with other raptors, are still illegally persecuted. For this reason the nest was kept under wraps until the juvenile had moved away from its site; the organisations aware of, and involved in the protection of the kites wanted to give their offspring every chance of survival.

It is hoped that the birds will return to nest next year, and that other pairs of red kites will soon begin to breed elsewhere in Derbyshire. We are particularly hopefully that a pair of birds might choose one of our reserves in the years to come.