Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 16:41 UK

Rare birds nesting in underwear

Nest contents of red kites
The bizarre collection was found in nests in the Derwent Valley

A bizarre range of clothing and other items have been recovered from the nests of rare birds of prey reintroduced to the North East.

A pair of underpants, an England football flag, two white socks and a soft toy were among objects recovered from the nests of red kites.

The birds are known for stealing items from washing lines to make nests.

The items were revealed as it was announced 22 chicks had been reared in the area this year.

The haul was found in nests across the north-east of England, where the birds were reintroduced into Gateshead's Derwent Valley four years ago.

Large wingspan

Northern Kites project manager Keith Bowey said: "We have had another huge growth in the known breeding population of kites in the north east of England.

"There has been a 75% increase in successful pairs since last year, a 100% increase in the young reared by these pairs, and a 100% increase in birds nesting and laying eggs."

The Northern Kites project is managed by the RSPB and English Nature, working in partnership with Gateshead Council, Northumbrian Water, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission, with additional funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and SITA Trust.

Red Kites are a large bird of prey with a wingspan of almost two metres.

They are one of the most beautiful birds of prey in Europe and are famed for their stunning rusty red plumage, forked tail and long elegant wings. They became extinct in the north of England during the early 1800s.

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