RSPB NI needs your eyes on the skies for red kites!

Thursday 15 March 2018

Red kite Milvus milvus, swooping in to feed on ground, Oxfordshire

Have you spotted a majestic red kite in the skies?

RSPB NI is reminding members of the public to report sightings of this amazing bird of prey as we enter the 2018 breeding season, 10 years after they were reintroduced to Northern Ireland. Last year, phone calls and emails to us resulted in two new territories being discovered and we want to remind people about the importance of reporting their chance encounters with these beautiful birds.

Red kites are medium-sized raptors that primarily feed on dead animals, but can hunt small mammals, crows and rooks. They can also be found on freshly manured or cut fields looking for worms and beetles.

They are reddish brown with black wingtips and a silver grey head, usually seen slowly flappingtheir long, slender wings (up to five and a half feet in length) which are held at a shallow angle or using their distinctive V-shaped forked tail like a rudder as they soar at height.

RSPB NI RKites Project Officer Noreen Gallagher said: “Although we have a dedicated team of volunteers diligently monitoring our small red kite population, sightings from members of thepublic are incredibly valuable in highlighting new territories we may not already know about. I would like to acknowledge and thank anyone who has contacted us in the past with their records and would encourage more people to get in touch. 

“These birds are truly a beautiful sight to see flying above our rolling countryside and it’s up to everyone to ensure that they survive for future generations to enjoy. Citizen science in the form of recording and reporting sightings can and does help with this.”

RKites is a funded partnership project focusing on a dedicated public engagement programme and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, RSPB NI, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, with support from the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group and the Mourne Heritage Trust.

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, 10 years ago - in 2008 – RSPB NI joined forces 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-introduced kites have produced their own chicks.

The current population is thought to stand at around 20 breeding pairs. While County Down remains a hot-spot, red kites have been seen all over Northern Ireland.

Like all birds of prey, red kites are protected under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 andthe Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 legislation, and any acts of persecution may result in a custodial sentence and/or fines of up to £5,000 per offence. Any suspicious activity or bird of prey deaths should be reported to the PSNI on 101 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Most red kites in Northern Ireland have been fitted with a small brown tag on their left wing and a coloured tag for year of birth on their right wing to help with individual identification.

Please report all your red kite sightings to and tell us:

The date, time and location of your sighting.

The wing tag colours (if possible, not essential).

The wing tag letter or number combination (if possible, not essential).

Last Updated: Tuesday 30 March 2021

Tagged with: Topic: Birds Topic: Red kite Topic: Northern Ireland