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Thirty young red kites are due to be released in Grizedale Forest shortly, in the culmination of a three-year programme by Forestry Commission England to reintroduce these magnificent birds of prey to North West England.
Red kites are rust red and have white patches under their wings. They are primarily a scavenger, feeding mostly on carrion. They breed from around the age of three years, and usually pair for life.
Sixty red kites have already been released over the past two years as part of the programme. Ian Yoxall, from the Forestry Commission, who has been responsible for the red kite reintroduction programme, says:
“It is absolutely wonderful to be able to see these magnificent birds soaring over Grizedale. This year’s birds are looking healthy, and the red kites released since 2010 have done well, so I hope these birds are now here to stay.“
The young red kites have been kept in special pens at a secret location in Grizedale Forest and are being cared for by expert Forestry Commission staff until they are strong enough to be released.
The Forestry Commission team are now weighing and measuring the birds and carrying out final health checks to make sure they will be able to fend for themselves when they are released.
The birds are all tagged. The tags refer to the area and year of release and, along with radio transmitters, will help the Forestry Commission monitor them in the wild.
Dave Lowe, Grizedale Forest Manager, said:
“The enthusiasm that our visitors and the public have shown for the red kites has been fantastic. I'm really proud of what we have achieved with the reintroduction programme, and I’d like to thank everyone involved for all their hard work and support. “
The team at the Forestry Commission has been monitoring the birds released in previous years, with the help of members of the public reporting sightings of them. Most of the red kites have remained in South Cumbria, but a few have moved as far as Yorkshire and County Durham, and one has even been spotted on the Isle of Mull in western Scotland. A special Facebook page has been set up, at www.facebook.com/GrizedaleRedKites, which has already received dozens of postings from members of the public who have spotted a Grizedale kite.
Like other raptors, red kites commonly disperse when they are young, but then come back to their home areas to breed. The red kites released in 2010 are expected to breed next spring, and it is hoped that each breeding pair will produce one or two young birds.
Before the release of the first 30 red kites in 2010, the birds had not been seen in the skies of the North West for more than a hundred years.
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.
Notes to editor:
- 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 Commission's North England Forest District looks after public forests in Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumbria, Tyne & Wear and County Durham. The forests are managed for conservation, wildlife, landscape and recreation as well as providing a valuable source of timber.
Media contact: Sarah Bruce, 01229 862026