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A landmark Forestry Commission conservation project has entered a new chapter with the arrival of 30 more magnificent birds of prey in Grizedale Forest.
Red kites were successfully reintroduced to the heart of the Lake District in the summer of 2010. Now their numbers are set to double with new hatchlings arriving from the Forestry Commission’s flagship breeding site in Rockingham Forest, Northamptonshire.
The latest group of juvenile raptors are spending a month gaining strength in a custom made pen at a secret location in Grizedale Forest. An expert Forestry Commission team is caring for the young birds and feeding them until they are ready to fly and fend for themselves.
Forestry Commission wildlife ranger Iain Yoxall, who has led the project to reintroduce red kites into Grizedale, said:
“The release of the first thirty birds last year was a momentous sight and has given us cause for great confidence in the project.
“We are feeding the new arrivals on a variety of food, with the staple diet and nourishment coming from grey squirrel, rats and mice. The birds of prey are primarily scavengers in the wild and feed mostly on carrion.
“We will care for the hatchlings for three or four weeks until they have grown strong enough to take wing, giving them the best possible opportunity to thrive in the wild.
“Before release, we have a vet on hand to give each of the birds a full health screening which includes delousing, worming, visual inspections and blood tests.
“Thanks to the co-operation and support of our partners and the growing understanding and enthusiasm of the public, the project is fast becoming a great conservation success for the Forestry Commission, reintroducing a species that has been missing for well over a century.”
When the birds are released, they carry tags on each wing, an orange one on the left to show they are from Grizedale, and one on the right to indicate the year of release – white ones for 2011.
The Grizedale birds also carry radio transmitters to allow the forest’s rangers to monitor their progress and the scheme’s success, but the Forestry Commission is keen for people to report sightings of the birds to help judge their movements and support the project.
The Forestry Commission North West England has been granted a special licence to release 90 red kites in Grizedale Forest over a three year period. The latest arrivals mark the second phase of the landmark final reintroduction of the birds in England. There will be another 30 birds released in 2012.
Red kites were almost eradicated from the UK following changes in farming practices and human persecution between the 16th and 19th centuries. Numbers then recovered slowly thanks to the actions of local conservationists. The UK population is expanding and there are now thought to be over 1,000 pairs of the birds in the country.
Birds released in 2010 are their wings around Cumbria and sometimes even further afield. There have been sightings of the tagged Grizedale birds in Dumfries and Galloway to the North and as far away as East Sussex in the South – a typical range for the birds at this stage of their development.
Bird experts from organisations like Natural England, the RSPB and the British Association of Shooting and Conservation have come together to form a special advisory group to help ensure the project’s success.
Red kites are coloured chestnut red and have white patches under their wings. The wing span of fully fledged adults can be around five feet. They typically begin breeding in their second or third year and usually pair for life. The long term aim across the country is that the kites expand into other areas and eventually join together.
For more information about the Forestry Commission in the North West please visit www.forestry.gov.uk/northwestengland
Notes to editors
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.
Media contacts: Iain Yoxall on 01229 862014 or Sarah Bruce on 01229 862 011 or 07827 232 832