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Last Updated: Thursday June 02 2011 06:33 GMT

Bird experts ask public to stop feeding red kites

Ore spots a red kite

Ore investigates the problem with red kites

Bird experts are asking the public to stop feeding red kites after reports of them swooping down to steal food off school pupils.

About 40 years ago there were only a few pairs of the birds of prey in the UK and special projects have reintroduced them to the wild.

But the red kites have tried to take food from students in Watlington, Oxfordshire.

Pupils have been told not to eat their lunches in the playing fields.

One student, Joe, said: "Red kites come and swarm around everyone when they're eating. They've swooped down to grab it out of our hand."

Red kites were reintroduced to the Chilterns area in the 1990s after becoming extinct in England.

Red kite facts
Red kite
Became extinct in England in 1871
Typical diet of mice, moles, worms, small rabbits and carrion
Average wingspan 1.5m!

A 2011 RSPB survey recorded 2,000 breeding pairs, an increase of more than 130% from the year before.

Bird experts says that people need to stop feeding the red kites, which will encourage them to hunt - and their population will spread out as they find their own hunting ground.

Cathy Rose, from the Chilterns Conservation Board, said: "We should not encourage them to come down by putting additional food out.

"Then their numbers will actually become balanced with the amount of food that nature can provide for them.

"Let them survive naturally in the wild and they will control their own numbers that way."