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Northern Ireland Red Kites

Kite E from 2009's Northern Ireland release

Kite E from 2009's Northern Ireland release

Image: The RSPB

Over the past 200 years the UK red kite population dwindled, largely due to human persecution, until only a small population remained in mid-Wales. Since 1989 a number of reintroduction projects have begun to restore the red kite to its former range across the UK. These have successfully led to the re-establishment of breeding populations in these release areas.

During this time the Welsh population has naturally recovered and was estimated at around 900 pairs in 2009.

It is highly likely the red kite occurred as a breeding bird in Northern Ireland until the mid-18th century. Due to the momentum and experience gained from recent successful reintroductions in England and Scotland, the stage was set for this large-scale species recovery project to be rolled out into Ireland in 2007 as it was unlikely that red kites would naturally re-colonise this island in the near future.

Project objectives

  • To create a self-sustaining red kite population in Northern Ireland and contribute to attaining a more favourable conservation status for this species
  • To raise public awareness about red kites and birds of prey in order to reduce the perceived threat of these birds, especially within the local community where the reintroduction took place
  • To inspire people by successfully reintroducing a beautiful bird to a country where it was once lost, and to let people appreciate their splendour once again

Progress so far

  • June 2008: The first collection visit to Wales to collect the donor stock for Northern Ireland Red Kites reintroduction project with partners Welsh Kite Trust and Golden Eagle Trust. A total of 27 kite chicks were collected
  • July 2008: All 27 red kites were successfully released into County Down in the first of three years of the release programme. This is the first species reintroduction project ever carried out in Northern Ireland
  • July 2009: A further 26 red kites relocated from Wales
  • July 2010: 5 red kites successfully fledge from four nests in County Down. All parent birds were those released in 2008. This is the first time this has happened in over 200 years
  • July-August 2010: Final release of 27 red kites takes place
  • June 2011: Phase 2 of Northern Ireland Red Kites begins
  • July 2011: Eight red kite chicks reared from five nests in County Down, including a nest with triplets, another first for Northern Ireland Red Kites
  • July 2012: 15 chicks fledge from 10 successful nests.
  • Spring 2013: For the first time, a red kite which was born and reared here was confirmed to be breeding. The bird, known as Brown/White 34, was found to have bred at a site on the southern edges of the Mournes.. Another 13 nests were also located and, of these, 17 chicks fledged successfully from seven nests.
  • Summer 2014: 16 territorial pairs of red kites were located in 2014 and eight of these pairs were successful, fledging 16 chicks.

Work planned or underway

Phase 2 of Northern Ireland Red Kites came to an end in June 2014. Although no further releases are planned, we will continue to closely monitor the progress of the red kite population amid the ongoing threat of wildlife crime and we’ll keep working to raise awareness of these wonderful birds. 

The RSPB also aims to raise the public’s knowledge and awareness of these majestic birds of prey, which will include working with stakeholders, landowners and the general public in the area.

Adopt a Red Kite Scheme

The Adopt a Red Kite Scheme has now closed to new members but individuals and organisations that are already supporting one of these majestic birds will continue to receive updates. For more information, please contact or call 02890 491547.

How can I help?

If you see a red kite we would be interested to hear about your sighting. Sightings where wing tags are read are most helpful to the project, however, even sightings of untagged kites or where the tags could not be read are also extremely useful.



Who to contact



Northern Ireland Red Kites is the first species reintroduction in Northern Ireland and part of an all-Ireland project to bring back these wonderful birds to our shores. Project partners are the Welsh Kite Trust, the Golden Eagle Trust and the RSPB.


Phase 1 of the project was funded by Ulster Wildlife Trust's Landfill Communities Fund grant scheme provided by Down, Newry and Mourne, and Banbridge Councils and Quinn Environmental Ltd, Ernest Kleinwort Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Heritage Council and Northern Ireland Environment Agency (formerly Environment and Heritage Service), an Agency within the Department of the Environment.

Phase 2 of the project has been made possible thanks to continued assistance from Newry & Mourne, Down and Banbridge Councils through the Ulster Wildlife Trusts Landfill Community Fund and additional support has been received from NI Electricity and RES Ltd.

Banbridge District CouncilDown District CouncilNewry and Mourne District CouncilNorthern Ireland ElectricityRES LtdWildlife Trust logo