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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Rare bird returns to north skies
Red Kite
Red kites will soon be seen over the Derwent Valley
A plan is under way to reintroduce a rare bird to the skies over north-east England, after an absence of 150 years.

The first red kites were arriving on Thursday in a project which is being hailed as unique.

The Northern Kites Initiative is claimed to be the first to re-introduce red kites near a major conurbation.

The project team, which includes the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, hope that up to 30 birds will be reintroduced into the region this year.

Chicks, which have been brought to the region from Oxfordshire, are to be released into the wild over Gateshead's Derwent Valley in July.

Further releases are planned in coming years.

Maiden flight

The Northern Kites Initiative is a partnership between English Nature, The RSPB, Gateshead Council, Northumbrian Water, The National Trust and the Forestry Commission, with additional funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund.

A spokesman for the RSPB said: "The chicks are only around four weeks old and have not yet attained their full rusty-red plumage.

"They will not be ready to make their maiden flight until they are least eight weeks old.

"They are wild-born birds and have been collected from nests in Oxfordshire.

"Until they are old enough to be released, they will be looked after somewhere in the North East, where human contact will be kept to a minimum.

"This is a historic wildlife event for the north of England and we expect that over time they will help bring new income into the region through wildlife tourism initiatives."

There are about 500 breeding pairs in the UK and Isle of Man.





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SEE ALSO:
Windfall for osprey project
23 Feb 04  |  Cumbria
Osprey celebrations take off
12 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Red kites return to the skies
03 Jul 03  |  Tyne/Wear


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