For some time, I’ve been drawn to understanding the survival of raptors in the UK, and elsewhere. Whether that’s birds that are illegally persecuted or those making a presence in urban areas. Their relationship and meaning to us is complex. They’re appreciated and seen as a joy to some but also perceived as a nuisance and a pest.
Arguably, one of the most successful re-introduction programmes in the UK is that of the Red Kite. By the late 19th century, following high levels of persecution, only a small, isolated population persisted in the UK. It wasn’t until 1989 that a programme set out to re-introduce kites back into areas of the UK. This saw birds being flown in from natural populations in Spain and Sweden, along with existing UK populations in Wales and released across seven sites in England and Scotland.
It has been almost four years since I moved from the midlands to Yorkshire to study at university. Now living in North Yorkshire, near to one of the original release sites at Harewood House, I see kites daily, and often in abundance. Although there are some birds in the (west) midlands, I rarely saw kites near to where I went birding.
As scavengers, red kites aren’t afraid to make the most of a free meal. As a kid, I vividly remember a trip to Gigrin Farm in Wales where kites were fed every day. Members of the public can still sit in a hide and watch hundreds of kites swooping down to grab a chunk of meat. Kites are also present in urban areas and were historically considered as an urban species. Perhaps, as a result, this explains the increasing interest of supplementary feeding in gardens.
Now in my final year at university, I am focusing my research project on the distribution of red kites across urban and rural gardens in the UK. I am also aiming to gain an understanding of the impacts of supplementary feeding on kite distribution and survival. My findings will also be useful in evaluating the success of the reintroduction programme.
I would highly appreciate some help with my research by completing this short survey that I have created (click here). It takes a matter of minutes to complete and will immeasurably benefit my project and help produce some interesting results. All comments on whether you feed or see kites in your garden, or about the survey itself are more than welcome. Feel free to drop me a tweet (@georgialocock), put a message below or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).