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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006, 02:07 GMT
Red kite numbers soar in Scotland
Red kite and chick
There were 76 breeding pairs of red kites in Scotland last year
Red kites have had their best breeding season in Scotland since they were reintroduced 16 years ago.

The bird of prey was extinct in Scotland for more than a century but was brought back 16 years ago.

RSPB Scotland said the number of breeding pairs and the young they hatched last year was probably the highest for 200 years.

There were 76 breeding pairs in 2005, with the Galloway area seeing the largest increase in numbers from 2004.

Last year, there were 12 pairs in Galloway which produced 18 chicks. In 2004 there had been just three pairs which fledged three chicks.

The kites were reintroduced to habitats in north, central and south west Scotland.

Red kite attack
It is hoped the red kite will soon be seen all over Scotland

Last year a migratory black kite, which generally breeds in more southerly and eastern areas of Europe, was also spotted setting up home in Scotland.

It was seen pairing up and building a nest with one of the Scottish red kites, although they failed to lay eggs and produce any young.

The RSPB said that although they are two distinct species, it was possible for red and black kites to successfully breed and raise hybrid chicks.

It is believed this was the first time that such an attempt at inter-breeding between the two species had been recorded in the UK.

Rhys Bullman, an ornithologist at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: "Red kites used to be so numerous that they once commonly scavenged in the streets of our cities, but after years of persecution this majestic bird was forced to the very edge of extinction.

"It is excellent news that their population continues to rise and expand throughout the country."

Red kites died out in Scotland in about 1870. They were reintroduced using birds from Scandinavia and Germany.

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