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Friday, 1 December, 2000, 18:43 GMT
Secrets of rare bird screened
Red Kite
The red kite has made a remarkable recovery
The secret life of one of the country's rarest birds of prey is being brought to the TV screen in a unique monitoring project.

Viewers will be able to follow Red Kite chicks from birth to when they fly the nest in the study at Rockingham Forest, near Corby, Northants.

Organisers hope that visitors will be able to see breath-taking images of adult birds feeding two downy chicks, climaxing in the dramatic first flight of the young birds as they leave the nest.

The Red Kite fought back from the brink of extinction to reach its highest levels in 150 years, according to a survey last year by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

In the study a CCTV camera will film the family's nest.

Pictures will be beamed back to screens in a barn which has converted into an information centre.

The protect has been set up by the RSPB, English Nature and the Forestry Commission.

Carl Nicholson of the RSPB said: "Red Kites are one of the most wonderful birds and have become a flagship for conservation throughout Britain.

"This project offers a chance to experience Red Kites soaring above the countryside and enjoy breathtaking views of this scarce bird's fascinating family life."

Ian Carter, ornithologist at English Nature, said: "We are delighted that more and more people now have the chance to see such spectacular birds in their local countryside."

Seventy young kites were released into the East Midlands between 1995 and 1998 by the three partner organisations and around 20 breeding pairs now exist.

Keven Stannard, Forestry Commission district manager, said: "We are delighted with the results of this project, which demonstrates what can be achieved through successful partnerships. "Now thousands of visitors to Rockingham Forest can enjoy seeing these magnificent birds back in their natural habitat."

Red kites were persecuted to extinction in England by the end of the 19th century.

The first national survey of red kites, conducted by the RSPB, last year revealed the distinctive bird of prey has fought back from the brink of extinction to reach their highest levels for 150 years.

Wales remains the stronghold for the red kite and there are now 259 breeding pairs, compared with 71 pairs ten years ago.

There have also been reintroduction schemes in Scotland and England and the UK-wide population is estimated to be around 430 pairs.

The young Red Kites at the centre of the latest study are set to leave the nest in late June.

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See also:

20 Feb 00 | Wales
Red kite boost celebrated
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