Aberdeen Red Kites celebrate 10 years of being back

Kirsty Nutt

Monday 17 July 2017

RSPB Scotland marks anniversary with special photo competition and events

The first red kites to grace the skies of Aberdeenshire in nearly 150 years, returned on this day (17 July) 10 years ago.

They were released as part of a three year re-introduction project (2007-2009), which saw 101 young birds reintroduced at a then secret location on the outskirts of Aberdeen [note 1/2].

Red kites were persecuted to extinction in England, Scotland and Ireland in the 19th century, retreating to just a few pairs in North Wales in the 20th century. UK-wide reintroductions, which began in 1989 with the Black Isle and Chilterns, have been carried out including the one on the outskirts of Aberdeen.

Following this successful reintroduction red kites are becoming a common sight once more in Aberdeen City and shire. The population has grown year on year with a minimum of 35 breeding pairs established in the north east by 2016.

They now range from the edge of the Cairngorms National Park to Aberdeen City and have spread south into Angus. After first breeding in 2009, to date, Aberdeen's red kites have raised over 300 chicks in the wild.

During the reintroduction project, many local schools had visits to learn more about Aberdeen Red Kites from RSPB Scotland as part of Bird Friendly Schools. From these visits 67 young kites were named by local schoolchildren, with imaginative names including Kingswells Bullet, Echt Happy Chappie and Monymusketeer.

Jenny Weston is a Conservation Officer for RSPB Scotland but was the charity's Red Kite Officer back in 2007. She said: "The return of the red kite to our skies is a massive conservation success story. That so many of us now see kites on our daily commutes or walks should be celebrated as just 10 years ago they weren't a common site here in Aberdeen and 30 years ago they were absent from Scotland. I feel privileged to have been part of this project since it began especially as I remember watching kites as a child in Wales where they were still very rare indeed."

To mark the 10-year anniversary and celebrate the return of these magnificent birds of prey to the Aberdeenshire area, RSPB Scotland has launched a red kite photo competition.

Entries will be accepted from 17 July until 15 August and entrants can be of any age or skill level (except professional photographers) as long as photos were taken in the north-east of Scotland and feature a red kite in a natural setting.

The judges will be looking for photos that tell a powerful story about these much-loved birds and the winning entrant will win a day out with an RSPB Scotland Conservation Officer to visit local red kite hotspots, take photos and learn more about the species and its conservation.

The winning photo will also be displayed at TechFest in August 2017 alongside runner up photos and special commendations. More information and terms and conditions can be found at https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/projects/aberdeen-red-kites

Adam Ross, Membership and Engagement Officer for RSPB Scotland, said: "It's so exciting to see red kites in the skies around Aberdeen and knowing that RSPB Scotland has been the driving force behind this conservation success story. I'm really looking forward to marking the anniversary of the reintroduction and celebrating these amazing birds with events and activities."

Along with the photo competition, there will be a special celebration event and family fun day on Sunday 13 August at Cullerlie Stone Circle, near Garlogie from 10.30 am until 4 pm and RSPB Scotland's stall at this year's TechFest will have a red kite theme with activities and opportunities to learn more about the birds. People can follow and share stories throughout the summer on twitter using the hashtag #ARK10.

Editor's notes:

1. Aberdeen Red Kites was a three year project to re-introduce red kites to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. The project was a partnership between Aberdeen Greenspace, SNH, VSA Easter Anguston and RSPB Scotland and it was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Aberdeen Greenspace Trust Ltd through the Landfill Community Fund and Scottish Natural Heritage, with additional contributions from local businesses Stewart Milne Group and Raeburn, Christie, Clarke and Wallace.

2. In 2009, the secret release site was revealed as VSA Easter Anguston Farm, Peterculter.

3. Other reintroductions took place in the Chilterns in S England, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Gateshead, Dumfries & Galloway, the Black Isle, Northern Ireland, Wicklow and Central Scotland. The UK reintroduction programme started in 1989 with the Black Isle and Chilterns, and the UK population now numbers around 3000 pairs (over 250 in Scotland).

4. Red kites are the fourth largest bird of prey in the UK and are recognisable by their colourful plumage, red forked tail and acrobatic flight. They decorate their nests with soft material which often includes litter and debris, such as wool, gloves, horse hair, foam and even spotty knickers! They mainly eat carrion and are often seen feeding in groups. The best places locally to see red kites are Garlogie, Echt and VSA Easter Anguston Farm near Peterculter.

5. RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Birds of prey Topic: Species conservation