Returning from the edge of extinction:
Persecution meant that the bird was exterminated in England, Scotland and most of Wales by the end of the last century. The 16th Century saw a series of Vermin Acts, requiring ‘vermin’ including the Red Kite to be killed throughout the parishes of Wales and England -the bird was perceived as a threat to expanding agriculture.
Such persecution continued throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries, and at the end of the 18th Century another devastating blow happened when increasing numbers of gamekeepers were employed on country estates, set up after the initiation of the parliamentary enclosures. These men were responsible for killing far more Red Kites.
By the late 18th Century, Red Kites had bred for the last time in England; the story in Scotland was similar.
Only in rural Mid Wales did Red Kites hang on, their numbers down to just a few pairs. At that point a few local landowners had the foresight to set up an unofficial protection programme to try to safeguard this beautiful bird. Over a period of around 100 years, efforts to maintain a fragile breeding population were made by committed generations of landowners, rural communities, dedicated individuals and organisations.
Thanks to the dedication of individuals and organisations, and despite severe threats from egg collectors, poisoning and some modern farming practices, Red Kite numbers are now gradually increasing.
How close did the Red Kite get to extinction? It’s hard to give exact figures, but from scientific research at Nottingham University we do know that the entire population of kites in 1977 emanated from just one female bird.
My daughter and I visited a feeding station in Wales armed with our camera’s to take pictures of these beautiful birds in action. Their acrobatic movements in flight is amazing to watch, as they spiral down to feed. Words can not explain the grace of the pick up of the food.
There are a number of feeding stations in Wales and England and no doubt many more. If you are an action photographer, I recommend you get out there with your camera. You will not be disappointed.
All pictures were captured by myself. If you want to use them, please contact me. Many thanks