Northern Ireland red kites
The red kite became extinct in Ireland more than 200 years ago, so in 2008 we embarked on the first species reintroduction in Northern Ireland to bring them back. Ten years on, there are now around 20 breeding pairs in Northern Ireland.
- 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.
- 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: Five 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 more than two centuries.
- July-August 2010: Final release of 27 red kites takes place.
- June 2011: Phase two 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.
- Summer 2015: 12 territorial pairs were found with 7 of these pairs successfully fledging 13 chicks.
- Summer 2016: 21 territorial pairs located - 11 of these pairs fledged 21 chicks.
- Spring 2017: RSPB NI successfully secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and local councils for a three - year project called RKites.
- Summer 2017: 20 pairs were found with 13 of these fledging 28 chicks, the highest number of chicks to date.
RKites ProjectPhase 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.
For the 2018 breeding season the RKites project plans to set up a nest camera to give people a unique insight into the lives of one of our most beautiful birds of prey.
To encourage more people to get out and see red kites, there are plans to install information panels at strategic locations to give people the opportunity of seeing the birds in their natural environment.
The red kite project officer and volunteers will continue to closely monitor the progress of the red kite population and work to raise awareness of these wonderful birds amid the ongoing threat of wildlife crime.
This exciting three-year project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and supported by the Mourne Heritage Trust and the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, will engage the public to take ownership of these marvellous birds, ensuring their continued conservation.RKites will build on the relationships established in previous years and strengthen the link between people and red kites, working with landowners and local residents. The project will engage with over 40 schools in the two council areas to educate students about our red kites and the threats they face, hold public talks and recruit volunteers who will assist in monitoring and recording our red kite populations.
How can I help?
Report red kite sightings
Organise an educational visit
Adopt a Red Kite
Additional support was received from NI Electricity and RES Ltd.
Red Kite Runner
Robert Straughan, RSPB Northern Ireland's Red kite project officer, talks about the RSPB's efforts to protect the red kite.