The first of more than 40 birds of prey that will be taking to the skies over north-east England this year, was released on Friday.
Red kites were last seen over the North East 150 years ago
It was the first stage of a project to release 41 red kites into the skies above the Derwent Valley.
Bad weather had delayed the release, supervised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Among the 20 birds released was one named Phoenix in memory of others which were poisoned.
Northern Kites Project Manager Keith Bowey, said: "The more kites that we are able to release, the faster they will become established in the North East and the greater the spectacle for local people and visitors to the region."
The young birds were collected from nests in the Chilterns in June and have been cared for locally until they were old enough to take their first flight.
One of the first young kites to fly free today was Phoenix, who has been "adopted" by children at Winlaton West Lane Community Primary School.
Last year the kite that they adopted, Flash, was illegally poisoned in Tynedale, and the Northern Kites partnership put the school at the front of the queue to adopt one of this year's birds.
Mr Bowey added: "The discovery of Flash's corpse was a low point, but there have been numerous highlights during the year, and it's fantastic that local people have really taken these fabulous birds to their hearts.
"The release of Phoenix and the other young kites takes us another step closer to the day when kites will once again be a familiar sight in our skies."