RSPB Northern Ireland is calling on the public to help build a clearer picture of the country's red kite population by keeping an eye in the sky and reporting any red kite sightings.
Red kites are magnificent birds of prey which were sadly persecuted to extinction more than 200 years ago because people mistakenly saw them as a threat to game and livestock.
However, back in 2008 the conservation charity joined forced with the Welsh Kite Trust and the Golden Eagle Trust to reintroduce the species to Northern Ireland's skies.
Over two years, dozens of young red kites were released into County Down and every year since 2010 these re-located kites have produced their own chicks.
Unfortunately, the project hasn't been without its setbacks, population increase is slow and a number of birds have died from natural causes and as a result of poisoning and shooting.
Help us monitor the population
The current population is thought to stand at around 21 breeding pairs and, although no further releases are planned, it's vital the charity continues to monitor the population until it is at a sustainable level - estimated to be around 50 pairs.
RSPB NI's Red Kite Monitoring Officer Alan Ferguson is supported by a small, dedicated team of volunteers carrying out detailed on-the-ground monitoring but the more pairs of eyes searching the skies the better!
While County Down remains a hot-spot, red kites have been seen all over Northern Ireland, and as far away as counties Fermanagh and Derry/Londonderry.
"Kites are opportunistic scavengers, happily living off carrion or 'road kill'"
Alan said: "People will be able to easily identify red kites with their rusty-red colouring, a distinctive forked tail, white patches under each wing and inky black wing tips, not to mention their five-and-a-half-feet wingspan!
"While they are quite large birds of prey, kites are opportunistic scavengers, happily living off carrion or 'road kill' and invertebrates such as worms they lack the strength to pose a threat to livestock or people.
"As the kites are no longer radio tagged, following their spread can be difficult. This is where the public's assistance is vitally important to us. All sightings are greatly appreciated and allow us to focus efforts in particular areas."
Have you seen one?
To report a red kite sighting, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Sightings where the coloured wing tags are read are most helpful but equally sightings of untagged kites, or where the tags could not be read, are also extremely useful.
Red kites are a protected species and causing them harm is an offence under the amended Wildlife Order (NI) 1985, so we are also asking people to keep an eye out for and immediately report any signs that persecution is happening to the PSNI by calling101.
For more information on red kite sightings contact Alan Ferguson; email email@example.com or call 07527 665 668.
Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018