Wingspan of almost six feet across NI skies - RSPB appeals for information on Red Kite sightings

The RSPB is asking members of the public across Northern Ireland to report sightings of majestic red kites as the 2021 breeding season gets underway.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 3:18 pm
Updated Monday, 29th March 2021, 4:49 pm
Red Kites are distinctive reddish brown birds with black wingtips, silver grey heads and slender wings. They can measure up to five-and-a-half feet in length with a distinctive V-shaped tail. Photo: RSPB

RSPB staff were unable to monitor red kites in the 2020 season due to Covid-19 restrictions, but information from members of the public and volunteers indicated that there were at least 24 nests in County Down; the highest number recorded since they were reintroduced to NI in 2008, with over 400 sightings last year.

The distinctive reddish brown birds have black wingtips, silver grey heads with slender wings and can measure up to five and half feet in length. They also have a distinctive V-shaped forked tail – unlike buzzards, which have fanned tail feathers.

Although County Down remains the hot-spot for the birds, they have been seen all over NI – on the north coast and in Fermanagh.

Neal Warnock, RSPB NI Senior Conservation Officer, said: “Anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing a red kite will know how stunning these birds are. At this time of year, they can be seen displaying and nest building.

“Red kite sightings from members of the public are incredibly valuable in highlighting new territories we may not already know about.

“Last year we received more than 400 sightings emails from volunteers and members of the public. So if you are out walking in and around Castlewellan, Katesbridge, Moneyslane or Ballyward in County Down, or spending time in the Mournes as ‘stay local’ restrictions ease, please let us know if you spot any red kites.”

The raptors were sadly persecuted to extinction more than 200 years ago because people mistakenly saw them as a threat to game and livestock. In 2008, RSPB NI joined forces with the Welsh Kite Trust and the Golden Eagle Trust to reintroduce the species to Northern Ireland’s skies. Over two years, dozens of young red kites were released into County Down and every year since 2010 the birds have produced their own chicks.

People are asked to include the date, time and location of their sightings and, if visible, the wing tag colours and the wing tag letter or number combination.

Red kite sightings can be logged by emailing [email protected]

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