Save British red kites

This video from Britain says about itself:

10 March 2011

In this video, Gav gives us a look at a group of the birds of prey known as Red Kites as they swoop for bacon scraps outside a cafe.

This was shot at 2500fps (100 times slower than real-time).

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Britain’s red kites still need our protection

Friday 1st December 2017

The gamekeepers’ war on protected birds of prey continues to threaten their long-term survival. PETER FROST investigates

The huge six-foot wingspan bird was hanging on a thermal high above M40 motorway as it cuts through the chalk of the Chiltern Hills.

The reintroduction of this magnificent “tourist eagle” has been one of the greatest successes of conservation in the last 30 years.

The latest and most successful programme started in 1989 when six Swedish birds were released at a site in north Scotland and four Swedish and one Welsh bird were released in Buckinghamshire, where I had my first sighting.

By 1992 kites reared in the wild themselves reared their own young for the first time.

Successful breeding populations have since become established in both locations and the kite is spreading all over the country. Indeed they have just reached my village in Northamptonshire.

Today the UK population is estimated to number upwards of 3,000 breeding pairs.

It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb nesting kites.

Red kites are extremely sensitive to human activity close to the nesting area during the nesting season and can abandon their nest and chicks at the slightest disturbance.

However, with everything seeming to be looking bright for the kite, a study published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research suggests poisoning of red kites may be slowing their rate of recovery in England and may have been holding it back for many years.

The study identifies two main threats to the future of the kite. One is from those old villains the gamekeepers and their rich landowning employers who think they have a God-given right to slaughter any creature they even suspect might be interfering with their profit-driven game bird shoots.

They use dead bird or small rodent carcasses poisoned with pesticides in an illegal campaign to kill not just red kites but many other protected birds of prey as well as foxes.

Dr Jenny Jaffe of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), who worked on the study, believes this poisoning is mostly deliberate caused by baiting of poisoned bird or rabbit carcasses.

“You’ll find red kites that are in good body condition that have died very suddenly and where toxicology shows that they have high levels of pesticides,” said Jaffe.

“It might not per se be focused on red kites specifically, but the people who put out these poisons are focused on killing predators of their, for example, game birds or livestock.”

Jaffe also said birds of prey, and especially scavengers like kites, also eat dead animals that contain lead shot, leading to lead poisoning.

Post-mortem tests on wild red kites show many have been poisoned by either lead shot, rat poison or pesticides.

It is still true that no English gamekeeper has ever been sent to prison for killing birds of prey. They normally escape with a fine paid by their employer.

Landowners and shoot managers who give the gamekeeper his orders to kill are never prosecuted.

In the study, scientists carried out detailed post-mortems and toxicological analysis on 110 red kites found dead between 1989 and 2007, when the birds were being reintroduced at four sites in England.

Of these, 32 had been killed by rat poisons, other pesticides and lead shot.

Red kites are handsome birds, up to two feet tall on their perch. In flight their distinctive turned-up wings can stretch to almost six feet.

It is an elegant bird, soaring on long wings held at a distinct V-shape known as a dihedral and with its long forked tail twisting as it changes direction.

The white primary flight feathers contrast with the black wing tips and dark secondary feathers.

There is a rare pure white form accounting for approximately one in 100 hatchlings in the Welsh population, but its distinctive colouring gives it a marked disadvantage in avoiding predators.

In medieval times the kite was a really common bird. It was the street cleaner in London and other large cities.

It carried away dead animals and butchers’ debris from marketplaces. It had a particularly gory reputation for plucking the eyes from the heads of criminals displayed on the spikes outside the Tower of London.

It was in the mid-16th century that fortune changed. An Act of Parliament for the Preservation of Grain was passed and red kites were included in a list of vermin species perceived as a threat to food production.

Parish church wardens offered one penny for every kite killed. This, combined with the activities of egg collectors, caused kite numbers to plummet.

By the end of the 19th century red kites were extinct in England and Scotland, with only a few pairs surviving deep in the valleys of mid-Wales.

The red kite is listed Schedule I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and has full legal protection.

It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb nesting kites. The taking of photographs at or near the nests of red kites too requires a licence from Natural England. Special penalties, including fines of up to £5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months, could be imposed.

Just like all of our British birds of prey, from our most numerous, the buzzard, to rare and seriously threatened breeds like the marsh and hen harriers, the main threat to kites is from the so-called sporting community.

With so many Tory MPs and lords enjoying a day’s corporate-sponsored game bird shooting, perhaps it’s a bit silly expecting them to vote for serious ways to protect these most glorious creatures of our landscape skies.

Did Prince Harry kill rare bird?

Ten years ago at the end of 2007, Prince Harry and a close friend were interviewed by police after two rare and legally protected birds of prey were killed on the royal family’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk where the pair had been out evening shooting.

Witnesses saw two hen harriers in flight being shot — an offence under wildlife protection legislation that carries a prison sentence of up to six months or a £5,000 fine.

The prince and his friend were the only people out shooting on the estate that evening and were quickly identified to Norfolk police who questioned Harry and his friend, asking them if they had any information that could help.

Both men claimed to have no knowledge of the alleged incident.

Norfolk police refused to discuss the investigation with the media or local conservationists and concerned bird watchers.

The deaths alarmed conservationists as hen harriers are very rare in England, where there are estimated to be only about a handful of breeding pairs.

The RSPB says that the species is the most persecuted bird of prey. It is one of only two — the other is the sea eagle — birds of prey on Britain’s “red list” of most endangered species.

The killing, close to Dersingham Bog nature reserve on the edge of the Sandringham royal estate, was witnessed by a staff member of Natural England — the government’s conservation agency which runs the nature reserve — and two members of the public.

A spokesman for Natural England said: “We were shocked that two of the rarest birds of prey that we have in England had been shot.”

The eyewitnesses on the reserve reported that “we were watching the birds, saw them in the air, heard a shot and saw one of them fall and heard another shot and saw that one fall.”

Gamekeepers on country estates, particularly in areas known for grouse or pheasant shooting continue to see hen harriers as a pest because they feed on game birds.

Although the RSPB estimates that there is enough habitat for 300 breeding pairs of hen harriers in England, only four pairs bred in 2014, while three nesting males disappeared in 2015 and only a handful of pairs remain. The species is nearly extinct in England.

No further action was taken over the Sandringham 2007 slayings and, 10 years on, the slaughter of rare and threatened birds of prey still goes on.

As for Prince Harry I’m not sure I’ve heard much about him recently.

6 thoughts on “Save British red kites

  1. We have what seems to be an expanding population in Shropshire. They are spreading along Corve Dale towards Much Wenlock, and I spotted one last week in the field behind the house. Also saw more today coming back from Brecon along the Wye Valley.


  2. Pingback: British Labour party Christmas video | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: English ‘toff’ poachers kill birds of prey | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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