Friday, June 26, 2009

The Elegant Red Kite

photo Bælum, North Jutland, 20. June 2009
stig bachmann nielsen, Naturplan foto

photo Skagen May 2008: grethe bachmann

The red kite is a beautiful bird of prey with its long forked tail, the long wings and the chestnut-red colour. It is about 25% larger than the buzzard. The red kite is a fantastic flyer, it often stops in mid air , then turns around and goes down to the ground to examine a possible prey. When it is marking its nest-territory it hovers like a dragon above the forest for hours, therefore its English name "kite".

The red kite has, contrary to its close relative the black kite, a limited geographical distribution. Almost the whole breeding area of the species is inside Europe. 80 % of the European population is concentrated in 3 countries, Germany, France and Spain. In all three countries the kite is declining. In Denmark the red kite breeds few in number, but it has prospered during the latest years and is now found in all parts of the country. Most pairs of the red kite breed in the eastern part of Jutland.
The red kite breeds in open landscapes with spread forests, mostly close to water streams, lakes and moors. It often takes over other large birds' nests i high trees like the nests of raven or buzzard. The nest is often decorated with paper pieces, coloured plastic, rope etc. The red kite is also few in numbers as a migrating bird in Denmark, although the number of migrating kites in East Denmark is growing in line with the growing population in southern Sweden. The Danish and south Swedish kites overwinter primarily in Spain and France. Winter-feeding in Sweden has caused that more south Swedish kites overwinter close to their breeding area, and the kite is also observed in Denmark in winter in growing numbers.

The red kite is especially known as an expert in finding and eating carrion. It has an important role as "Nature's garbage man". But it is also able to hunt and kill its prey. The young birds are fed with fresh-caught amphibians, reptiles, mice, rats, young hares, little birds, crows and seagulls. The kite takes the prey represented in large numbers at the breeding place.
About two hundred years ago the red kite was a common bird of prey in Denmark, but shooting and poisoning wiped out the population in the beginning of the 1900s. After a Danish helårsfredning (protection all year) in 1922 the species re-immigrated in the beginning of the 1970s from the growing Swedish and German populations and has since spread slowly. The south Swedish kite-population has grown from 20 pair in 1960 to more than 1.200 breeding pair at present. The red kite is still endangered in Europe caused by a direct persecution in the wintering places in Spain, but an international pressure has reduced the problem lately.

Red Kite: Observation and Photo-Gallery

DOF (Dansk Ornitologisk Forening)
Danmarks Fugle og Natur

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