Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Red Kite /Rød Glente

Milvus milvus

Red kite
photo: stig bachmann nielsen 2009 naturplan foto

The red kite is a strikingly beautiful bird of prey with its long forked tail twisting as it changes direction, its long wings with contrasts and its rust-red colour. It is 60-66 cm long with a 175-195 cm wingspan; males have a weight of 800-1000 g, and females 1000-1300 g. It is a fantastic flyer and while looking for food it flies rather close to the ground to check up a possible prey. When it wants to mark its nest-territory it may hang for hours like a kite above the forest - hence its English name kite.

The red kite has contrary to its close relative, the black kite, a limited geographic spread. Almost the whole breeding area of this species is inside Europe. 80% of the European population of red kite is concentrated in 3 countries: Germany, France and Spain. The red kite is declining in all three countries. It breeds in few numbers in Denmark, but it has made progress during the latest years and is now found in all parts of the country. Most breeding couples are in the East Jutland.
Red kite
photo: stig bachmann nielsen 2009 naturplan foto

The red kite breeds in open landsccapes with spread forests, likely near water streams, lakes or moors. It often takes over the nests of other large birds in high trees, like raven- or buzzard-nests. The nest is often decorated with paper pieces, coloured plast, rope etc.

The red kite is also few in numbers as a migrating bird in Denmark, although the numbers of migrating kites in eastern Denmark has been rising, in line with the rise of the south Swedish kite-population. During one autumn season were counted up to 1.000 migrating Swedish kites at Stevns. (East Zealand). The Danish and south Swedish breeding birds overwinter primarily in Spain and France. Winter-feeding in Sweden has caused that still more south Swedish kites overwinter close to the breeding area, and the red kite is also observed in Denmark in winter in rising numbers.

The red kite has a broad choice of food, but it is especially known to be an expert in finding and eating carcasses.The bird has an important role as "nature's garbage man". But it is also able to hunt and kill its prey by itself. The young ones are especially fed with fresh-caught amphibians, reptiles, mice, rats, hare kittens, little birds, crow-birds and seagulls. The kite takes the prey, which is represented in large numbers at the breeding ground.
NB: As scavengers, red kites are particularly sensitive to poisoning. Illegal poison baits set for foxes or crows are indiscriminate and kill protected birds and other animals.

Crow pursuing a red kite
photo: grethe bachmann July 2008

In the United Kingdom red kites were once so common that William Shakespeare once described London as "a City of Red Kites and Crows". King James II of Scotland decreed that they should be killed "wherever possible", but they remained protected in England and Wales for the next 100 years as they kept the streets free of carrion and rotting food. Under Tudor "vermin laws" many creatures were seen as competitors for the produce of the countryside and bounties were paid by the parish for their carcasses.

Source: Natur og Fugle, Dansk Ornitoligisk Forening

photo: stig bachmann nielsen naturplan foto & grethe bachmann naturplan foto

No comments: