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Flight of the kites

PUBLISHED: 17:21 17 June 2009 | UPDATED: 17:30 16 August 2010

First a big thank you to all those readers who wrote to say they have also heard a frog scream. If you have seen or heard any unusual wildlife behaviour please write and tell me about it. Red kite sightings were once unusual, especially in Kent, but are

First a big thank you to all those readers who wrote to say they have also heard

a frog scream.

If you have seen or heard any unusual wildlife behaviour please write and tell me about it.

Red kite sightings were once unusual, especially in Kent, but are now becoming more common. At the turn of the 20th century these spectacular, fork-tailed raptors were virtually extinct in Britain.

To see them you had to visit a certain Welsh town where a little old lady produced fish heads from a bucket for the few surviving kites to eat.

But thanks to a re-introduction programme co-ordinated by the RSPB and Natural England, there are now over 1,350 breeding pairs in Britain.

And they are coming to an area near you! Yes, whether you live in town or countryside you might look up and spot one of these graceful birds soaring around.

Recently red kites have been seen flying around Sheppey, Seasalter, Faversham and Stodmarsh.

A friend even saw one flying over while he was driving down the M2 motorway.

They have also been reported in London at Alexandra Palace and Lincoln's Inn.

This is not as surprising as it sounds as these scavenging birds were once the rubbish disposal system of British towns and cities, long before binmen.

The theory is that these new arrivals have been carried over from Europe on strong winds.

Originally red kites were re-introduced to middle and western England and they are now a common sight in towns like Marlow, Maidenhead, High Wycombe, Reading, Beaconsfield, and all along the M40 corridor.

This population was expected to spread into southern England.

It didn't happen partly because residents in the re-introduction areas loved having the kites around so much they put out plenty of food and made it unnecessary for them to travel in search of it.

But now Elmley RSPB warden Gordon Allison believes it is just a matter of time before Kent has its own breeding pair of red kites.

You can pledge your support for the RSPB's work to save birds of prey by going online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdsofprey.

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