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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Wing worry for rare bird of prey
Red Kite
The kite was the most common bird of prey in medieval England.
A rare bird of prey which was nursed back to health after being hit by a car is struggling to cope in the wild.

Spark is one of 20 red kites released near Gateshead in 2004 as part of an ambitious project to return the species to the north-east of England.

But he has not yet built up enough strength in his injured wing, according to the Northern Kites Project.

The one-year-old is now being kept in an aviary, where it is hoped his strength can be gradually restored.

A passer-by discovered Spark under a bush in Rowlands Gill while walking his dog.

It is thought he was too tired to fly and decided to play dead - a defence mechanism in young kites.

Radio transmitter

The man assumed he was injured and returned him to the care of the Northern Kites Project team.

Project manager Keith Bowey said: "Young kites often play dead if threatened by a predator, for example a fox, in the hope that they will not be attacked and can then seize the opportunity to escape.

"When we do release him, we'll keep the aviary open and provide him with food so he can return if necessary to help build up his strength."

A second kite, a female named Scarlet, has recently clocked up thousands of kilometres of air miles.

Thanks to a tiny radio transmitter which all the kites carry, she has been tracked as far afield as North Yorkshire, Wales and southern England in the past year.

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