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Last Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Delight as red kite chicks hatch
Red kite
It is hoped the chicks are the key to a "thriving population" of red kites
Red kite chicks have hatched in the north-east of England for the first time in almost 200 years.

The Northern Kites project was started in 2004 to restore a breeding population of the birds to the region.

The project team confirmed there are at least two chicks in a nest in Gateshead's Derwent Valley.

The adult red kites - named Flag and Red Philip - were moved from nests in Stokenchurch in the Chilterns to the Derwent Valley two years ago.

English Nature regional director Martyn Howat said: "Today is a red letter day for the Northern Kites project and an historic event for north-east England.

"It marks the opening of an exciting new chapter in the extraordinary story of these magnificent birds in the region."

Public viewpoint

He added: "We are confident that from this historic first nest a thriving population of kites will soon become established so providing further opportunities for people to enjoy the spectacle of kites flying over the North East."

A public viewpoint has been set up on the Nine Arches Viaduct, near Winlaton Mill.

Red kites were formerly widespread and common in the UK, but human persecution led to their extinction in England and Scotland by the end of the 19th century.

A few survived in Wales, though even they came perilously close to dying out, and at one point it was thought that only a single female of breeding age existed in the whole of the UK.

In 1989 the decision was made to try to re-introduce the birds into England and Scotland and pairs were brought from Spain and Sweden to Oxfordshire, the Chilterns and Inverness.

This was extended when it proved to be successful.

The re-introduction project is now complete, with colonies also existing in the Rockingham Forest area of the Midlands, around Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Central Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway.


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