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Most of the red kite chicks released by the Forestry Commission in the Lake District’s Grizedale Forest last summer have survived the harsh winter.
Wildlife rangers believe that around 20 of the 30 birds that were released in the first year of a three-year reintroduction programme made it through the winter and are still in Cumbria, or nearby counties.
The Forestry Commission estimates that between five and eight red kites are living in and around the Grizedale and Rusland valleys in South Lakeland, with another three to five birds in the Kirkby Moor area, near Ulverston.
Four more Grizedale red kites have been spotted by RSPB experts at feeding stations in Dumfries and Galloway – the furthest known movement is by the bird tagged as number four, which has flown 120km north west into Scotland.
Iain Yoxall, Forestry Commission wildlife ranger, said:
“The birds are doing pretty much exactly as we expected which is very encouraging. We are more confident that these birds will make it to adults now they have made it through a harsh winter.
“Sadly we lost a few birds but that is natural and why we have to release the numbers that we did.”
The 30 red kites released from a secret location in Grizedale Forest in August last year had coloured tags on each wing. An orange tag on their left wing shows they are from Grizedale, and blue tags on their right wings indicate that they were released in 2010. Some birds were also fitted with radio transmitters to help with monitoring.
Mr Yoxall, who has been following the birds’ movements around Cumbria, said the help he has received from the public has been invaluable.
“I have been radio tracking the birds but sightings from members of the public have been a fantastic help and greatly appreciated. This has been very important because it helps us find the birds and backs up our radio tracking results to give us a more robust picture of the their movements.
“We hope that the public will continue to help us by letting us know when and where they make sightings of the red kites.”
Red kites, which are coloured rust red and have white patches under their wings, are scavengers that feed primarily on carrion – dead animals.
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.
The red kites being introduced into Grizedale are the product of a reintroduction programme that took place in Northamptonshire in the 1980s.
This year’s birds will hatch in May and be brought up to Grizedale around late June ready for release in August.
A special advisory group has been established, containing bird experts from organisations like Natural England, the RSPB, Cumbria Raptor Study Group and the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, to help ensure the project’s success.
For more information about Grizedale Forest please visit www.forestry.gov.uk/grizedale or the Grizedale Forest Facebook page.
Notes to editors
- Although ten of the birds have not survived, this matches natural mortality rates is why a high number of birds were released.
- The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain, with responsibility for more than one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. The North West England Forest District covers the Lake District in Cumbria, the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. The forests are managed for conservation, wildlife, landscape and recreation as well as providing a valuable source of timber.
Ian Yoxall on 01229 862014 or Sarah Bruce on 01229-862011 or 07827 232832