Red Kites return to the Lake District

The Forestry Commission is spearheading a three-year project to reintroduce red kites into parts of the Lake District.

This is the first operation of its kind in North West England and the last red kite reintroduction project in England.

Four Red Kite chicks at Grizedale. Pic- Forestry Commission

Four Red Kite chicks at Grizedale. Pic- Forestry Commission

Last month, June 2010,  Forestry Commission wildlife rangers from Grizedale brought 30 birds, soon after hatching, from Rockingham Forest in Northamptonshire.

The birds are currently being held in a specially built holding pen secretly located in Grizedale.

Released in to the forest

The forest’s team of experts are looking after the birds and feeding them until they reach a size where they are ready to fly and care for themselves.

“The birds are settled in nicely and all are doing well,” said Forestry Commission wildlife ranger Iain Yoxall, who is managing the reintroduction. “They are currently around nine weeks old and we would envisage releasing them at around ten to 12 weeks old.

All are fully feathered with well developed flight feathers and characteristic forked tails. We will be fitting them with wing tags later this week which refer to the release area and year.  These, along with radio transmitters, will help us monitor them after they have been released,” he said.

Red Kite chicks Pic- Forestry Commission

Red Kite chicks Pic- Forestry Commission

The birds are being fed a variety of food including grey squirrel, young crows, magpies, jackdaws and rabbit, although road-killed mallard and pheasants have also been provided.

Final phase of re-introduction

The Grizedale programme is the ninth reintroduction of red kites into different regions of the UK, and the final phase of re-introductions in England.

Red kites were almost eradicated from the UK following changes in farming practices and human persecution between the 16th and 19th Centuries. However, they managed to cling on in mid Wales and their numbers recovered slowly thanks to the actions of local conservationists.

Now the birds are beginning to thrive again following the conservation work undertaken by organisations like the Forestry Commission.

The red kites being introduced into Grizedale are the product of a re-introduction programme that took place in Northamptonshire in the 1980s.

A special advisory group has been established, containing bird experts from organisations like Natural England, the RSPB and the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, to help ensure the project’s success.

Red Kite Pic- Forestry Commission

Red Kite Pic- Forestry Commission

Red kites are coloured rust red and have white patches under their wings. They are primarily a scavenger and feed mostly on carrion. They breed from around the age of two years and usually pair for life.

Graeme Prest, from the Forestry Commission in the North West, said: “It is great to see the red kites settling in so well at their new home in Grizedale. The Forestry Commission manages 24,000 hectares of public woodland across the North West of England to the highest international standards.

These woodlands are home to wonderful wildlife, from ospreys to red squirrels to rare butterflies and orchids, and the red kites are a spectacular addition to the wonderful diversity of wildlife we have here at Grizedale.”

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