The red kite is a scavenger bird that was once very rare across the UK and even became extinct in Scotland in the 19th century. Red kites have several characteristics that make them easy to identify. These large birds of prey have a rusty brown body with grey and silver markings on their head. They have long angular wings in the same colour as their body but with darker markings at the tips. When fully extended in flight their wingspan can reach up to a massive 5-6ft depending on the size of the bird. Wings appear to bend backwards in flight and their long tail becomes forked, giving it a triangular appearance.
Despite their large intimidating size, the red kite is an outgoing and social species. They be found in a variety of habitats including: grassland, moorland, farmland, woodland and towns/cities. During breeding season, they prefer to nest in broadleaved woodlands. The red kite is known to be a scavenger bird, meaning that they eat carrion and scraps. However, they will also hunt small prey such as rabbits if available. This scavenging behaviour often attracts them to towns and cities where they can eat things humans have thrown away. Even though the red kite will travel long distances for food, they are also known to be monogamous and mating pairs will return to the same nest each breeding season.
- Length: 58-66cm
- Wingspan: 180-195cm
- Weight: 800-1200g
The red kite is classified as a green list species, meaning there is no critical threat to their populations.
When to see
- They often use colourful, shiny objects in their nests.
- The call of the Red Kite has a distinctive “mewing” sound.
- Reintroduction programmes have been key to increasing the numbers of red kites in Scotland. Programmes in Perthshire and Dumfries and Galloway have been particularly successful.