Aberdeen Red Kites (ARK) is a three year project to reintroduce kites to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. 30 birds were released in 2007, 35 in 2008 and another 30-35 in 2009. Many of the birds have been named by schools and local business. The aim of the project is to establish a breeding population in one of the largest remaining gaps for red kites in Britain.
We’ve had 30 young red kites in the pens on the outskirts of Aberdeen for the past 6 weeks and now we are starting to release them into the wild. Caring for the birds in the pens has been pretty busy and time consuming. We have been checking the health of the birds and feeding them twice a day throughout this period so there have been plenty of long days.
Given the varied diet of kites in the wild we wanted them to be offered as many different foods as we could whilst we were holding them in the pens. This has mainly included rabbits and venison offcuts from RSPB Scotland’s Abernethy reserve. However, this has been supplemented by a variety of road kills including roe deer and rabbits as well as crows, gulls and small mammals.
The Aberdeen red kites have been kindly donated from all over the UK. We have 15 birds from the Chilterns and 9 from the Black Isle and 6 from Central Scotland. So as well as different ages of birds from different populations we have a real genetic mix.
Having watched the kites grow from smallish balls of fluff to fully grown adult kites with a forked tail and 5ft wing span, it is rewarding, if a little emotional, to begin the releases. We now have 15 birds on the wing, including six that were let out today. We’ve staggered the releases partly because there is an age difference but also I can track each of the released birds down that evening to make sure they’re all ok on their first night out of the pens.
Now we’ve started releasing my main job will be tracking the kites using the individual wing tags and radio tags on the birds. These kites are amazing flyers – true acrobats of the sky, so they could end up anywhere! I feel very attached to these birds, and can’t wait to see where they all go and what they get up to. Watch this space, as even though it feels like we’ve been working away for ages, this is just the beginning of the project!