UK red kites soar despite European decline
SCOTLAND'S population of red kites is bucking a Europe-wide trend of decline in the species, according to a survey by the RSPB.
The UK as a whole is now home to 7 per cent of the world's red kites, up from 5 per cent only a year ago.
Populations in Wales and in reintroduction localities in southern and central England are now so large they cannot be counted annually and they are considered "birds of the wider countryside", fully re-established and well able to flourish without further direct conservation intervention.
In Scotland, there are now estimated to be 149 breeding pairs, thanks to a reintroduction programme begun in 1989. This compares with an estimated 122 pairs in 2008.
There is serious concern for the bird of prey in other parts of Europe, however. Numbers on the birds' main wintering grounds have halved since 1994, and there have been big falls in the number of breeding pairs in its heartlands of Spain, France and Germany. The results of the 2004 national census of red kites in Spain showed the Spanish wintering population declined from 72,165 in 1994 to 36,233 in 2004. Experts say this is of particular concern as Spain hosts almost half of the global population in winter.
The latest survey of the Scottish population, which was completely wiped out by the 1930s, has revealed unusual dispersal patterns, with birds regularly recorded as travelling hundreds of miles during the winter months.
Juvenile kites are routinely fitted with wing tags at the nest, making them easy to identify, and their sociability means that travellers frequently join groups of other kites at feeding stations or roost sites around the country.
Jenny Lennon, RSPB Scotland red kite project officer, said: "This winter, the kites have been moving around so fast that it has been difficult keeping up with them.
"We've got one of our kites from the Aberdeen reintroduction project visiting Northern Ireland at the moment and, at Argaty near Stirling, they've had a visit from two kites from a nest near Tain in Easter Ross, which is the most northern kite territory in Scotland.
"Northern kites have also been recorded on the Galloway Kite Trail in the far south of Scotland. It's incredible how much they move around."
The EU has now adopted a red kite action plan, produced by the RSPB with the support of red kite experts across Europe.
It outlines steps that countries can take to reduce the risk of poisoning and maintain and improve feeding and breeding areas.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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