Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Hopes rise over future of red kites

More red kite chicks are expected to hatch this spring as the reintroduced adult birds of prey reach maturity.

Last year, five chicks were hatched to four pairs of red kites for the first time in two centuries — and that tally may well increase this year.

The magnificent birds were brought back to Northern Ireland by the RSPB over the past three summers after being persecuted to extinction here more than 200 years ago.

The body’s Red Kite Project Officer Robert Straughan says we are now entering one of the most crucial periods in the red kite year as new pairs form and begin gathering material to build nests.

He is keen to find out where the new pairs are nesting and is appealing to farmers and landowners who think they have kites nesting on their land to contact him.

“Please be assured that any reports will be treated with the utmost discretion,” he said.

He admits he once awaited spring with trepidation, fearful that many kites might not make it through the lambing season.

“I must admit in the initial stages of the project, spring was a worrying time as kites may have been seen by some as a threat during the lambing season,” he said. “Now though, because of the work we’ve done with farmers and landowners, as well as their own experience of the nature of these birds, they know that kites pose no threat at all to the newborn lambs.

“If the kites are hanging around fields with the stock, I reiterate, they’re only interested in the afterbirth, docked tails or lambs which may have died and gone unnoticed.”

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