Updated: Apr 20, 2020
By Rhodri Phillipps
While it can be hard for the best of us to tell our Merlin’s from our Hobby’s as they dart across the sky, there is no mistaking the distinguished silhouette of the red kite. The rusty coloured bird of prey is often seen gliding through the skies of the UK in search of its next meal. An efficient hunter scanning open fields from afar, detecting the slightest movement before it dives quickly using its fanned tail for stability, pulling up seconds before the ground. But despite their size and wingspan of almost 6 feet, a typical meal for the birds include small rodents, chicks and even earthworms. Although you are still unlikely to see one turning the turf of your garden with the robins. They are an opportunist hunter and scavenger, with roadkill now frequently on the menu for the once feared predator.
Red kites are also one of the few birds of prey to live in groups, at least while food is abundant. This can easily be seen at a number of feeding stations set up around the UK. Given the opportunity to watch it is easy to see that within these groups exhibits a hierarchy of sorts. Older birds, sometimes missing feathers feed first, while the juveniles and sub-adults patiently wait eager for their turn. Before long these fluffy and off coloured individuals get the go ahead from their elders and stoop down to grab the food provided.
The species has become an almost emblematic species for wildlife conservation in Wales, but that almost wasn’t the case.
The fantailed bird of prey was officially extinct in England and Scotland by 1871, with just a handful of individuals surviving in mid Wales.