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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 02:00 GMT 03:00 UK
Joy as red kite breeds
Red kite BBC
Six couples in Yorkshire have reared eight young
By BBC regional correspondent Richard Wells

Wildlife experts in Yorkshire, UK, are celebrating the news that a bumper number of red kite chicks have been reared in the county.

Six pairs of the large bird of prey, with its russet plumage and characteristic forked tail, have nested and reared a total of eight young.

The breeding success has surpassed all expectations. Two years ago, the county could not boast a single bird.

It was in the late summer of l999 that a partnership of English Nature, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Yorkshire Water and a company called Integrated Waste Management got together to introduce a number of young birds born in other parts of Europe on to the Harewood Estate, just north of Leeds.

More than 20 were released into the wild, with each one carrying a small radio transmitter attached to its tail so that their whereabouts could be tracked and their progress monitored.

The hope was that they would survive into adulthood and return to Harewood a couple of years later to breed. One pair confounded the experts by breeding after only one year.

Boosted by the release of a second batch of young birds from other populations in 2000, five more pairs have now responded to the call of nature and the lush wooded countryside of Yorkshire and bred.

Poisoned birds

Harewood has been selected by some; others have found other nest sites in the county, although the RSPB is keeping details of those secret.

The Yorkshire red kite story has not all been good news.

Last year, two birds were found poisoned. The species is a carrion eater and it is unclear whether they were deliberately targeted by the unscrupulous or whether they had unwittingly eaten poisoned bait put out to kill foxes.

It was a painful reminder to those involved in the project that the bird is a vulnerable one. It was unenlightened Victorian egg collectors and gaming interests who had been responsible for exterminating the ancient Yorkshire population in the first place.

Under the original release programme, a third batch of young kites was due to be released this year to join the by-now established population.

That has had to be put on hold because of foot and mouth disease. Those monitoring the birds are unable to gain access to farmland and footpaths, so it has been put on hold until next year.

The RSPB has, over the past decade, established other red kite populations in Scotland and the English Midlands to add to the pairs which have traditionally bred in central Wales.

It is hoped that given time, birds will expand from these areas and the populations join together.

See also:

13 Jul 01 | Scotland
German red kites fly into Scotland
18 Feb 01 | Wales
Flying high for red kite
13 Sep 98 | UK
Kites' soaraway success
12 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
Red kites take wing in Yorkshire
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