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Last modified: 15 September 2008
Image: Chris Gomersall
A survey of red kites has revealed more than 300 pairs of red kites in the Chilterns, with pairs now breeding across West Berkshire.
The count estimates the UK population to have grown to around 1,200 breeding pairs, with the Scottish population now standing at 122 pairs.
Hester Phillips, of RSPB South East, said: “The knock-on effect of population rises in the Chilterns has seen this magnificent bird of prey spread into West Berkshire. A while back, they were fairly rare in the county but sightings have been increasing year on year.”
Red kites are now classified as “near threatened” by the World Conservation Union and the UK’s 1,200 pairs represent around 5% of the world population.
This magnificent bird of prey was once common across the British Isles before being wiped out by widespread killing during Victorian times. By the 1930s there were just 10 pairs left in a remote part of Wales. By the mid-1980s, there were still less than 100 pairs.
In 1989, a UK reintroduction project began in the South of England and the North of Scotland, helped greatly by the progressive attitudes of many of today’s landowners.
The fruits of this labour are now being seen and the UK population is becoming increasingly important as land use changes, illegal poisoning, and rodenticide poisoning cause declines in the red kite’s main breeding areas of Germany, France and Spain.
Dr Mark Avery, RSPB Director of Conservation, said: “The continuing recovery of the red kite is a fantastic success story. It is a truly iconic bird and wherever it has been reintroduced, from the Chilterns to Gateshead to Aberdeen, local people have taken it to their hearts.
“Its return is a testament to what is possible when all sectors of society, conservationists, landowners and the general public, recognise the value inherent in our wildlife and work together to protect and treasure it.
“As a country, we can be very, very proud of what has been achieved over the last 20 years.”
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