Page last updated at 22:25 GMT, Sunday, 14 September 2008 23:25 UK

Scottish red kite numbers soaring

Red kite. Picture courtesy of the RSPB
Before re-introduction red kites had almost become extinct

The Scottish red kite population has risen to its highest level in 200 years.

The success has been attributed to a re-introduction project near Aberdeen and the fact the species has had one of its best breeding seasons.

There are now 122 breeding pairs in Scotland and 1,200 pairs across the UK.

Red kites were once common all over the British Isles, before widespread killings in Victorian times led to just a few pairs surviving in mid-Wales.

The healthy growth of the UK red kite population since re-introduction began in the late 1980s is increasing the UK's importance for the species globally, with the UK now having a fifth of the world's population.

'Success story'

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: "The red kite re-introduction is a real Scottish success story and a credit to the very many landowners, foresters and farmers who work with us and enjoy having the red kite around as part of their daily lives.

"Looking ahead, we hope that the red kite will recover most of its former range and become a familiar sight once again in towns and villages as well as the countryside all over Scotland."

Red kite and chick. Picture courtesy of the RSPB
Red kites have been successfully breeding across Scotland

Andy Douse, senior ornithologist at Scottish Natural Heritage, which has been involved in the re-introduction programme, said: "It's terrific that this has been such a good year for red kites, especially given the concerns over how slowly it has been growing in previous years.

"The increases in the north of Scotland are particularly welcome given that this was one of the first locations for red kite releases."

Red kites are almost entirely confined to Europe, and the species is faring badly in many other countries, with population declines recorded in the main breeding areas of Germany, France and Spain.

The species is now classified as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to its population declines in Europe.

The four release projects in Scotland have been in the Black Isle, Dumfries and Galloway, central Scotland near Doune and Aberdeen.

Successful re-introductions:

  • In north Scotland during 2008 there were 46 breeding pairs of red kites, which fledged 82 young. This was the first real population increase since 2001.
  • In central Scotland, 45 breeding pairs fledged 75 young. This was an increase of 11 pairs on last year's total, with particular population increases in west Perthshire.
  • In Dumfries and Galloway, 30 breeding pairs fledged 53 young. This was an increase from 21 pairs with 38 young in 2007.
  • A kite from the 'indigenous' Welsh population bred in Dumfries and Galloway - the first confirmed occurrence of a Welsh red kite breeding in Scotland.
  • There has been the first breeding attempt by a pair of released red kites on the edge of Aberdeen city for 150 years.
  • A further 35 birds have been released in the Aberdeen area.
  • A bird initially released in Galloway in 1991, and which bred for 2-3 years in central Scotland, returned to Galloway in 2008 where it bred successfully.

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