Red Kites The Most Majestic And Beautiful Birds Of Prey

The Red Kite public domain
The Red Kite public domain

Every morning I open my balcony door and step outside to the most beautiful sound of bird calls. Looking up, I see chestnut red and white, soaring high above the ground. The call is an ancient sound, long and musical. I look across at the tree approximately 30ft away, and my eyes travel to the peak. There in all its full glory is one of the most beautiful birds in the world. The Red Kite. To me, this is one of the most spectacular sights anyone could ask for. Right on my doorstep.

There are at least four birds living in the tree, with another ten flying around and roosting within a quarter of a mile. When the babies are born, the sound gets louder and continues all day, with the chicks constantly calling the parents for food. Its just like any nursery, only these babies are going to grow to a huge size.

With an adult wingspan of nearly six feet across, and a body weight of only 2 to 3 pounds, the Red Kite can stay on the wing for hour upon hour, and hardly needs to put any energy into flying. In fact most of the time they are soaring round and round, calling and playing over the fields nearby.

Did You Know?

One of the most amazing facts about Red Kites is that they had virtually disappeared from England, Scotland, And most of Wales, by the end of the 18th Century, and have only been reintroduced again recently.

Back in the 16th Century a law was enforced that went by the name, Vermin Acts. This was believed to have been founded as a last attempt to stop birds from causing agricultural disaster. The Red Kites were the first to go. This law continued throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries, and got worse by the employment of gamekeepers, especially employed to kill off all of these wonderful birds.

Luckily for us, Red Kites managed to survive in Wales, even though there were only a few pairs left.

Red Kite Chicks In Nest Beautiful photo taken by Tony Cross shropshirebirds.com
Red Kite Chicks In Nest Beautiful photo taken by Tony Cross shropshirebirds.com
The red kite's beautiful colors flickr.com
The red kite's beautiful colors flickr.com

Soon after, seeing the decline of such a wonderful bird, the local landowners in mid Wales decided to set up a protection program for the Kites. Along with the help of local communities and individuals. Over the next Century Red Kites continued to breed.

The majority of Red Kites live only in Europe, but a few pairs are known to have reached North West Africa. In Wales alone, there are over 600 pairs.

Red Kite Feeding Station & Rehabilitation Centre - Gigrin Farm. Mid Wales.

Fascinating Red Kite Facts

The Red Kite is known as Milvus milvus and belongs to the family called Accipitridae.

There is a Black Kite that is known as Milvus migrans which is more common to Continental Europe, and is very rarely seen in Britain.

The Red Kite has a distinct forked tail, that acts like a rudder to help it twist and turn as it flies. Some believe that is why its called a kite, in reference to the fact it looks and acts like a childs toy kite. This is probably a modern idea, but has no basis in fact.

The Red Kite has bright yellow legs!

Whilst the young have grey eyes, the adults have bright yellow or gold eyes.

Diet And Breeding Patterns

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Red Kites are fairly gentle birds considering that they are birds of prey. Recently shown on TV, I was fascinated to see that instead of being aggressive when held, they in fact hold their head down and keep completely still until allowed to fly. They tend to be scavengers, waiting for other birds such as buzzards and falcons to make the kill even though they are much larger in size. Their food consists of left over sheep carcases, small mammals, other birds and amphibians.

Red Kites will start to breed at two to three years old. Its said that they pair for life mainly because of their attachment to territory or nests. But I feel there is more to it than that. I have watched them soar and swoop, playfully nipping at each other as they swirl and dance in the sky, and it seems to me that they do sometimes have what I call ‘play time‘. The young Kites watch and learn, and sometimes join in.

Nests are always built in trees, usually oak or other hardwoods, and usually high up, 20ft and above. The Kites in the tree near me, are approx 35ft high. The nests are made up of sticks and are flat and two feet thick. Courtship starts in March and the eggs are laid two to four weeks later. If the mating pair are breeding for the first time, this may be as late as April.

Eggs are usually laid at three day intervals. And the female usually produces two, but has been know to lay four eggs. The female will stay on the nest, but the male will take over for short periods so that the female can hunt and feed.

The eggs will hatch after thirty one days, sometimes up to thirty five. Because they were laid three days apart, the chicks will be born with the same interval. This can sometimes cause sibling rivalry. The larger chicks will grab the food first, and if there is a shortage, they have been known to kill the smaller babies.




Red Kite Call

Attack And Defence

One of the most spectacular sights, is to see the Red Kites suddenly pull back their wings, tip upside down and, like a bullet, shoot down to grab their prey. Its an amazing sight. The sound of their cry echoes around the houses, and many a time I have seen smaller birds take to the air, squawking and frightened by the imposing sight of these huge birds reaching down and scooping up a rabbit or mouse.

The sound of the triumphant Kite, and the terrified black birds, makes such a cacophony of noise, that anybody walking underneath, automatically looks up and stops to watch the spectacle.

With Red Kites literally living on my doorstep, one of the most common sights is the aerial ‘War Games’ between the Kites and other smaller birds. it’s a sight to see. Mainly small blackbirds, and sometimes crows launch an aerial attack on the Kites.

Seeing the large birds circling around the small nests, the blackbirds take to the air, squawking and attacking the Kites. Most of the time it only takes a few seconds to warn the Kites to get away, and it’s a strange sight to see, a full grown six foot wingspan Kite being seen off by a tiny blackbird.

But sometimes it can turn nasty. The Red Kite starts to fly away from the small attacker, but after being nipped too many times in mid air, will suddenly turn on the blackbird. The Kite will try to grab the blackbird and a scuffle breaks out. Like any large bird of prey, the Kite will extend its claws and try to grab the smaller bird, then the ‘Twirl Dance’ will happen. This is when the Kite will swing the bird around and try to dash it to the floor. The message is, don’t mess with me. The Kite always wins.

I remember last year when this happened just as I was walking to the shop. Hearing a harsh screech, I looked up to see the action about 20 feet above me. Children just coming out of school, stopped in their tracks and started pointing at the sky. The fight must have gone on for ten minutes, and when it was finished, the children were so excited, they couldn't stop talking about it. Nature at its best.

The Chilterns England justicequest.com
The Chilterns England justicequest.com

Where To See Red Kites

I am so priveleged to live near such a wonderful bird. The Red Kites are part of my life, and I would miss them if they left.

If you would like to see Red Kites, and get a close up view, you can visit:

Red Kite Feeding Station & Rehabilitation Centre - Gigrin Farm. Mid Wales.

Where you can see them being fed every day at 3pm from March until October, and at 2pm from October until March.

You can also enjoy an Exhibition of Wildlife in your visit.

Or if you are visiting England, then just head on down to the Chilterns, which includes, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, and Hampshire. And see the Red Kites in their natural habitat.


Gigrin Farm Red Kite Centre, South Street, Rhayader, Powys, Wales UK

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Comments 69 comments

homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas

I am glad that these wonderful birds are being introduced. I have worked at a rescue facility for birds of prey.


tlpoague profile image

tlpoague 4 years ago from USA

Just from looking at your pictures and video, these birds look beautiful and powerful. They remind me of the eagles we have here. Thanks for sharing this fascinating information on your birds of prey.


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 4 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

Fascinating article Nell. I envy you.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

So very beautiful and interesting Nell;I love anyhting to do with nature and this one was a treat; a vote up and bookmark here.

Take care my friend and enjoy your day.

Eddy.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

What a "Treat" to see in that tree Nell, Nature is Wonderful! The Red Kite reminds me of an Eagle. This was such an Interesting and very Informative read...And a Big Welcome Back to these magnificent Birds. Thanks for sharing.


JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

You're really lucky to live where you live. I've been to Gigrin Farm, and it was a stunning experience to see masses of Red Kites, Buzzards and Ravens flying around. Also the landscape surrounding the farm is simply breathtaking. Great article about a great bird.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, tipoague, they are beautiful up close, we give them our chicken leftovers! they swoop down just under my balcony to get it! its amazing, and natural recycling! thanks for reading, cheers nell


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, christopher, thanks for reading, they are amazing birds, I would hate it if they moved!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Eiddwen, I love nature, along with the Kites, we have squirrels up the nearest tree, and goldcrest tiny birds living in the hedgerow just outside too! thanks as always, and have a great day!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, b. Malin, They are similar to Eagles, and their call is so lovely, thanks!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, JKenny, Wow! you lucky thing! I have seen about ten around near me, but to see hundreds of them in one go must be a fantastic sight! thanks for reading, cheers nell


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Excellent work on this one, Nell!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks Will, I love these birds they are so beautiful, nell


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Nell I'm so glad the Red Kites were reintroduced there. Good thing some survived in Wales too. Smaller birds sure do protect their nests or babies; and those air battles can be something to see. Came up on a Red-tailed Hawk on the ground stalking a rabbit once; I spoiled the hunt for the hawk and right before it took off it turned and gave me a look like a person would have.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Alastar, was that 'if you were smaller the prey would be you look?' lol! it is a great sight watching them fighting the smaller birds, I have tried so many times to get it on film, but they are much to fast! thanks as always, nell


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

A comprehensive and nicely done introduction to these wonderful birds. I especially liked the videos. Voting this Up and Beautiful.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, homestead, that must have been amazing, what a lovely job, I love birds of prey, and the Kite is one of the best, thanks!


Rolly A Chabot profile image

Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

They are all something to watch. While I lived in the Yukon there were a pair of Bald Eagles I aptly named Baldy and One step. The female only had one leg. Each time I passed I would catch and toss out an offering. When you have a bald Eagle coming at you full speed missing you by just a few feet you soon come to know just how big they are.

Love this hub and all the research you have put into it.

Blessings and Hugs


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, alocsin, thanks so much, they are beautiful birds, and to see them up so close is amazing, nell

Hi, Rolly, baldy and one step! what great names! lol! I know what you mean, I remember walking around the corner of a road nearby, and nearly getting swept off my feet by the Kite! it had obviously swooped down to pick something up, and we met right on the corner, it was knee height, and as it came at me, it turned on its side and swept past, so fast! great reflexes! and another time I was in a phone box, and the Kite was being chased by a blackbird, it headed straight for the phone box, and just swerved at the last minute! Oh for a camera! lol! thanks as always, nell


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 4 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

Hi Nell, great article here on the Red Kites. They are beautiful birds. My partner and I stopped at a RSPB reserve near Carlisle last year, it was lovely to see them perched on posts and feeding on meat that the RSPB officers had left out. It was part of a re-introduction program. Loved your hub. Voted up/interesting.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks jacqui, that must have been really interesting, to see these great birds back in the wild is something that I am so pleased to see, I would miss them now if they weren't around.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very interesting hub, Nell, and I loved the videos. It must be wonderful to have kites right outside your house! What a great opportunity to observe their behavior.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Alicia, it is lovely, I often just stand with a cuppa in my hand and watch them, no traveling to other parts of the UK to watch them! lol! how lucky is that? thanks as always, nell


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 4 years ago from US

These are fantastic! This time of year with no leaves is the perfect time to find nests too. Beautiful close up; but also so scary!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

How fortunate you are to have this “bird’s eye view” of these fascinating creatures. I’ve never heard of the Red Kite before; it was interesting to learn that they are so gentle despite being birds of prey, and how they mate for life as some birds do. Excellent hub!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Polly, they are lovely, but it can be scary when they swoop down near you! lol! but they don't hurt, thanks as always, nell


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Genna, they weren't around until the eighties and then the seem to have taken over the skies here! thanks so much for reading, cheers nell


pmccray profile image

pmccray 4 years ago from Utah

Simply beautiful nothing more awe inspiring than nature. What beautiful creatures. Voted up, marked beautiful and interesting.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, pmccray, thanks for reading, yes they are beautiful, I tried getting a photo today, one was sitting perched in the tree! it didn't come out very well, never mind!


girltalksshop 4 years ago

Nice hub! Loved the videos, especially the slo-mo. : ) Found it to be useful and interesting, so I of course voted it up!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks girltalk, they are fascinating creatures!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

Great hub! I covet your early morning scenario. Thanks for sharing including the videos.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks MsDora, it's a lovely way to start the day, they are beautiful.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Wow....this was beautiful bird. I learn many things about another animal kingdom. Thank you very much for share with us. My friend, you have done a great job here. Rated up!

Prasetio


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks pras, nice to see you. These birds are magnificent, I love watching them every day, cheers nell


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

There are many birds of prey in Texas and all of them are amazing to see in action. Thanks for introducing us to the Red Kites. Since you live so close to them and can watch them daily, it must be an amazing scenario of sightings. Birds of prey certainly have an important part in the eco-system.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America

With wings extended, the red kite reminds me a lot of the old Thunderbird paintings over here. I wonder if they were ever over in North America long ago? You are so fortunate to be able to see them in Europe. Love the videos.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

I had never even heard of these birds although I've spent hundreds of hours looking in bird books at many, many varieties. This is an exciting article (and a little sad: The Twirl Dance). Voted Up and Awesome. Thanks for SHARING.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Peggy, I love birds of prey, and feel so privileged to see them right on my doorstep, I can't get over the feeling of awe every time one flies above my head, thanks so much for reading, cheers nell


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks Patty, I am not sure if they were over there, I will have to go and look it up, not sure what you mean about the Thunderbirds? I will take a look at that too, thanks for reading, cheers nell


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether

I have a total love affair with birds...but never in cages. I think it's cruel to keep a bird in a cage...and so I loved this hub, Nell. Voted up, useful, and beautiful. Great info here!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, kitty, thanks so much! these are beautiful birds, I can't stop watching them flying over my head as I hang the washing out! lol! I think they are waiting for the chicken carcass that I give them!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

I expected to see Red Kites, but instead I was introduced to a beautiful bird. Thank you for teaching me something new today. I wouldn't complain if I came back as a bird in my next life:))


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Sunshine, they are beautiful aren't they? and up close they take my breath away, I never used to take notice of birds, but these have opened my eyes to how wonderful and diverse the bird world is, thanks so much nell


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

Thanks for this nice and informative hub. Voted up.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Timetraveler, glad you liked it, thanks!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 4 years ago from Lancashire north west England

Hi Nell, can only admire this beautiful hub. As you know nature is a subject close to my heart, you have have captured both here! rated up, excellent hub. Take care be back soon.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, D.A.L. nice to see you! loved your red foxes! I will be back over to read some more, thanks again, nell


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

These are beautiful. Birds are the very hardest things for me to photograph. I plan to learn the secret this summer because I am pretty good but birds always have been a problem. They won't stand nice and still for me like flowers and trees. lol


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Jackie, I know what you mean! lol! they are right outside my door but I still can't catch them on camera! thanks as always, nell


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Voted awesome! I photograph birds nearly every day and write a weekly hub on my sightings. Great information and fortunately for you that you live hand-in-claw with them.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, aviannovice, thanks so much, I do love my Red Kites! lol! I was actually standing on my balcony the other day, and a Kite flew down straight at me, spotted me at the last second and swerved away! If only I had my camera! lol!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I have learned to have mine ALL the time that I am out. That way I never miss a shot.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

I need a knew camera, mine got lost at my sons ex girlfriends, long story! lol! and the other one is so tiny words etc I can't see the stupid thing! haha! so I have to use my phone at the moment, its driving me mad!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Oh, you want to see pictures? Take a look at my weekly hub, "Life at Boomer Lake with Deb." And you'll have to wait until next week for the good ones that I started taking today, unless you friend me on facebook!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, aviannovice, thanks I will come over and take a look, nell


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks foysal, glad you liked it, cheers nell


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

Beautiful article, Nell. I learned a lot from this--great job! They sound like some of the hawks in the woods out back of my house. But they certainly don't look like our hawks with that extra-long wingspan. Nature never ceases to astound me. Seems like a lot of the time when we humans make such horrific decisions about killing off entire species, if given the chance She finds a way to make a comeback--thankfully. Though that is not always the case, I'm glad things finally turned around for your Kites! It is articles like yours that help humans to understand that there's more to birds than just the behaviors that might bother them. Thanks for this gem! Voted Up, Awesome and Shared.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi grandmapearl, thanks so much, I love my Red Kites, I feel that they are mine! lol! you should see it when I throw the chicken over the balcony, there are about 20 of them swooping down past us to grab it, its an amazing sight! glad you liked it and thanks.


Julie DeNeen profile image

Julie DeNeen 4 years ago from Clinton CT

What a stunning bird. Nice job with lots of information. Animal hubs make me happy! :)


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks Julie, glad you liked it and thanks for reading, cheers nell


innerspin profile image

innerspin 3 years ago from uk

Red Kites were re-introduced near us a while back, in the Derwent valley. They've been successful in breeding, and are quite an attraction for visitors. We often see them on our favourite walk. The odd one will come over our house, nothing like the sights you describe, but beautiful. Those fights sound impressive. Very interesting hub.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

Well, I have a hard time liking birds of prey -- which I know is ridiculous because they have to eat, too.

I did enjoy your hub and your positive attitude toward a bird of prey. I would not be able to describe the War Games and Twirl Dance as you have -- without bias.

Thanks for another well-written hub. Voting up and awesome.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England Author

Hi innerspin, they are gorgeous aren't they? I love seeing them every day, and those fights are pretty cool! lol! thanks so much for reading, nell


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England Author

Hi Pamela, the lovely thing about the Kites is that they are not like the bigger eagles or vultures, these are just gentle giants, thanks so much for reading, nell


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 3 years ago from Northern California

Hi Nell,

Great hub and lovely photos! Voted up and beautiful.

We have a similar conservation effort in California for our Condors in the chaparral country above LA. Up close, they look like other vultures. But from a moderate distance, they are magnificent, with their humongous wingspans.

I've never actually seen one in the flesh. But that's not surprising, considering that they were teetering on the brink at the time that I did chaparral hiking many years ago.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England Author

Hi Larry, the Red Kites are lovely aren't they? I have seen Condors on tv but never in real life, they must be an awesome sight, its great to know that they have a conservation on them, especially as they were nearly gone, they are all beautiful birds, thanks as always, and great to see you! nell


Shar-0n17 profile image

Shar-0n17 2 years ago from Perth

I love the way they hang or should I say glide in the air. Nice hub and Pictures


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England Author

Hi Shar, thanks so much for reading, yes they are amazing aren't they?

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