Eyes on sky for soaring red kites

Have you spied a red kite in the skies while out for a walk?

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 8:09 am
A red kite soaring over Co Down this year. Credit: Mark Douglas
A red kite soaring over Co Down this year. Credit: Mark Douglas

RSPB NI is reminding people to report sightings of these impressive birds of prey as the 2020 breeding season is underway.

While the government advice in response to Covid-19 means that the conservation charity has had to cease all fieldwork – for both staff and red kite volunteers - it is now even more important to hear about red kite sightings from members of the public.

In the last few years, public sightings have led to new red kite territories being discovered in Northern Ireland.

A red kite soaring over Co Down this year. Credit: Mark Douglas

Red kites are reddish brown with black wingtips and a silver grey head. They are usually seen slowly flapping their slender wings (up to two metres in length), which are held at a shallow angle, or using their distinctive V-shaped forked tail like a rudder as they soar at height.

RSPB NI Senior Conservation Officer Neal Warnock said: “Red kite sightings from members of the public are incredibly valuable in highlighting new territories we may not know about.

“We’d like to thank anyone who has contacted us in the past with their records and would encourage more people to get in touch. We’ve already had people contacting us this year via the dedicated email address: [email protected]

“We’d like to stress that we’re only asking for sightings that happen while adhering to the current government guidelines – when people are out for a walk or if seen from home.

A red kite soaring over Co Down this year. Credit: Mark Douglas

“These birds are always a real pleasure to see and it’s up to all of us to ensure that they survive for future generations to enjoy.”

The current population in Northern Ireland is thought to stand at around 22 territorial pairs. While Co Down remains a hotspot, red kites have been seen in all counties of Northern Ireland.

Most red kites in Northern Ireland have been fitted with a small brown tag on their left wing and a coloured tag for year of birth on their right wing to help with individual identification.

RSPB NI’s red kite conservation work is part of the RKites project, a funded partnership project focusing on a dedicated public engagement programme. It is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, RSPB NI, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, with support from the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and the Mourne Heritage Trust.

Please report all red kite sightings in Northern Ireland to [email protected] and include:

r The date, time and location of your sighting.

r The wing tag colours (if possible, not essential).

r The wing tag letter or number combination (if possible, not essential).