red kites - The Chilterns’ Red Kite population continues to go from strength to strength. The number of breeding pairs in 2002 was 139, only seven more than in the previous year. But in 2003, no fewer than 177 breeding pairs were located, including several outside the usual Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire core range.
At least 163 pairs were successful with about 312 young reared to fledging. Nine nests failed after sitting and 3 other nests could not be checked. Of this year’s crop of chicks 131 were ringed and 91 were also tagged with a yellow tag on the left wing and a red one on the right. A rehabilitated adult, missed as a chick, was also tagged.
At last the kites seem to be slowly moving away from their core areas. There were once again a few nesting pairs of kites in Wiltshire and others on the Berkshire Downs as well as a successful nest in South Hampshire.
Two female kites were found dead below their nests with signs of haemorrhaging, an indication that the problems associated with second generation rat poisons continue.
There were no nest robberies identified this year unlike the previous three years when there was at least one per year.
There has been a slight, but noticeable, decline in the average number of young reared by each breeding pair during the last eight years. It is thought that as the numbers of pairs in the main breeding area has increased, there has been increasing competition for food and so adults have found it harder to find sufficient food for their young. This is despite the fact that supplementary food is provided for the kites by an increasing number of people.
There are concerns that some of the food put out to attract Red Kites into gardens may be of low quality. Recent guidelines have been drawn up advising that food should only be put out in small amounts and whole or chopped carcasses should be used in preference to butcher’s off-cuts or processed meat.
Red Kites derive valuable vitamins and minerals from ingesting skin and even small bones, which may be especially important for growing young in the nest.
Altogether it was a good season, better by far than 2002, although some of this years fledged chicks suffered from the extreme dry weather and the consequential lack of worms.