Seventy magnificent birds of prey are to be released in south Down from next summer, under ambitious plans announced by the RSPB.
If the rare red kites return to the skies above the Mourne Mountains, it will be the first ever reintroduction of a species in Northern Ireland, coming close on the heels of sightings of golden eagles in the Sperrins after they were released in Co Donegal.
However, the plans to release up to 70 red kites over a three-year period from summer 2008 may come to nothing unless the RSPB can source significant partnership funding for the enterprise.
The group has appealed for major corporate sponsors to consider support the groundbreaking initiative.
Dr James Robinson, conservation manager at RSPB NI, stressed that the red kite is a scavenger and does not pose a threat to other animals.
"With its, rusty-red colouring, white patches under each wing and inky black wing tips the red kite is one of Europe's most beautiful birds," he said.
Red kites are believed to have vanished from Irish skies in the 1800s.