Red kites fly high at expense of other birds
LANDOWNERS have claimed that a scheme to protect red kites in Scotland has been so successful that the raptors are now wiping out populations of other wild birds.
Around 100 red kites were re-introduced in Dumfries and Galloway between 2001 and 2003 to save the species from extinction.
But numbers have now tripled to almost 300 and local people say that the system of artificially feeding poultry chicks to the kites at a local farm is not meeting their growing demands for food.
As a result, they claim the kites are preying on other birds including the red-listed lapwing, oystercatchers and sand martins which are paying the price for the predators’ hunger.
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has called on the Scottish Government to investigate the impact of the re-introduction scheme to prevent further ‘annihilation’ of waders and songbirds.
James Mair, who comes from three generations of “conservationist farmers” in the region, said: “There is basically no longer anything we can do to protect the wildlife on our farm. It is annihilation.......At a peak we had upwards of 250 nesting lapwings on the farm, all of them safe, but lapwing chicks are easy pickings for the kites.....(and) we’ve lost 80 per cent this year. It’s tragic. Every year we have had two barn owl chicks hatched in an open hay shed. This year there are none. I saw one kite myself flying out of the shed with a chick in its claws.”
He added: “Those involved (in the scheme) should stop feeding the kites and let them survive on their own.”
Local pigeon fancier Neil Black, who has lost 18 of his 40 young racing birds this year to raptors including kites, said many locals believed the feeding station was motivated more by tourism than conservation - a reference to a special red kite trail for visitors generating millions of pounds for the local economy.
However RSPB Scotland, one of the organisations funding the project, branded the claims “misguided opportunism based on prejudice” not evidence.
A spokesman said: “There is absolutely no evidence that red kites have any impact on the populations of these prey species claimed by the SGA.”
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