Red Kites hang in there

STORMY weather during this year’s breeding season failed to blow Northern Ireland’s red kite population off course.

New figures, released today by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Northern Ireland, reveal that in 2012 there were 12 known breeding pairs in Northern Ireland, a rise of three on the previous year.

However, strong winds and prolonged spells of heavy rain throughout the season did take their toll on some pairs, with one nest being blown from the tree and another which held a single chick also failing as a direct result of the weather.

Adam McClure, RSPB Red Kite Officer, said: “This spring, twelve pairs of red kites were located across south County Down. RSPB staff and volunteers closely monitored their progress throughout the season. The unseasonably warm period which we experienced back in March allowed the breeding season to get off to a good start, however, since then we have had some truly horrendous weather and the kites have had to suffer some pretty challenging conditions.”

As well as the two pairs which failed due to the weather, a third pair failed during nest building and abandoned their breeding attempt, which isn’t unusual as Adam explains: “Red kites normally breed for the first time when they are two or three years old. Sometimes young birds which are nesting for the first time don’t quite get it right and will fail in their first attempt. We hope that this pair will stay together and try again next season.”

One of the highlights of the 2012 season was the discovery of a new pair near Rathfriland, the male of which is lucky to be alive. In April 2011, Blue 22 was discovered lying in a field by some local residents, apparently suffering from the effects of ingesting poison. They were able to contact RSPB staff in the area who took the bird into care and after several rehabilitation, Blue 22 was re-released into the wild.

“We were concerned about how Blue 22 would get on after his brush with death,” says Adam. “We kept a eye out for this particular bird, and I was pleased to receive photos of him taken near Moneyslane in August last year and appeared to show him in good health.”

Even better news was to follow for Blue 22, when he was adopted by Methodist College, Belfast who named him Ruby and this spring, Adam was delighted to discover that Ruby had found a mate and they had bred for the first time, successfully raising two chicks.

“It’s a great result for Ruby, but this incident highlights the risks posed through the misuse of rodenticide and other poisons. Where controlling rodents is necessary, it must be done in an appropriate and legal way.”

In total at least 14 young fledged during this year’s breeding season, the highest since the reintroduction project began here in 2008.