Red kite on ground

©Margaret Holland

Red kite in flight

©David Tipling/2020VISION

Red kite

Scientific name: Milvus milvus
Seeing a red kite soaring high in the sky is a true delight! Once a very rare bird, thanks to successful reintroduction projects these wonderful birds can now be seen in lots of places in the UK.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 58-64cm
Wingspan: 1.8m
Weight: 1-1.2kg
Average lifespan: 4 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

January to December

About

Once considered a threat to game birds and domestic animals like cats and dogs, the red kite was hunted close to extinction in the UK. Now a protected species – and following several reintroduction attempts, the number of red kites has recovered and they can be spotted in lots of places across the UK. Rather than purely hunting for food, red kites are in fact largely scavengers, so mainly like to eat scraps and small prey like rabbits. Listen out for their ‘mewing’ calls!

How to identify

The Red kite is a large bird of prey with angled, red wings that are tipped with black and have white patches underneath in the 'hand'. It has a long, reddish-brown, forked tail.

Distribution

Found in several parts of the country including Wales, South East England, Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

Did you know?

Red kites were common in Shakespearean London, where they fed on scraps in the streets and collected rags or stole hung-out washing for nest-building materials. Shakespeare even referred to this habit in 'The Winter's Tale' when he wrote: 'When the kite builds, look to lesser linen'. The nest of a red kite is an untidy affair, often built on top of an old Crow's nest. It is lined with sheep's wool and decorated with all kinds of objects like paper, plastic and cloth.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.