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  • Writer's pictureJanice Gill

The Red Kite (persecution & preservation)

Updated: Mar 31, 2023


Red Kite photographed in circling flight against a pale blue sky.
Red Kite in Flight: Photo by the Author

The Red Kite has a turbulent history.


Once prized for its ability to clean up medieval streets, it became so populous it was treated as vermin with a bounty on its head.


Hundreds of years of persecution drove this magnificent bird to extinction in England and Scotland by the beginning of the 20th Century.


Despite the introduction of protections, by 1930, one breeding pair remained, located in Mid Wales.


It took until the 1990s for a programme of reintroduction to begin, but now you can see Red Kites in many parts of England and Scotland and across much of Wales.


Where to see Red Kites (Milvus Milvus)


Red Kites fill the sky on a drizzly afternoon in August.
Red Kites at Gigrin Farm: Photo by the Author


When I was a young Mum, I moved to Mid Wales in 1990. At this time, reintroduction of the Red Kite across the UK had not begun.


However, a farmer at Gigrin Farm had started putting out rabbit meat to feed a few local breeding pairs. By 1993 the farm had become an Official Red Kite Feeding station at the request of the RSPB.


The population started to boom, and the Red Kite began to thrive in the area. It was a real treat to catch a glimpse of a kite with its elegant and effortless flight.


By the turn of the century, 2 or 3 hundred birds would arrive for the afternoon feed at Gigrin. Nowadays, there are around 600 birds arriving, supported by the farm.


It's a great opportunity to see kites and photograph them from the hides next to the feeding fields. The aerial displays of this fast and agile bird are spectacular, and with so many in one place, they are easy to film or photograph.


These days, as I travel in Mid Wales, it's remarkable when I don't see one on the wing, watching out for roadkill. There are more feeding stations too, including one at Bwlch Nant Yr Arian, near Aberystwyth.



Man standing on Giant's Chair at Bwylch Nant yr Arian at sunset pointing into the distance
The Giant's Chair at Bwylch Nant yr Arion: Photo by Dave Gill


The forest centre at Bwlch Nant Yr Afon is a great place for all the family, housing an attractive cafe with a kite-viewing veranda. This long-disused mining area has been converted into nature trails, walks, and mountain bike tracks.


The Red Kite in Flight - Wales Coast Path


The picture at the top of the page was taken from the Wales Coast Path, which runs for 870 miles as close as possible to the coastline. The section we (my son, his fiancee, and I) were walking that day was from Aberystwyth to Borth.

I must admit, I was hoping to take the tram up Constitution Hill, but it wasn't running. Thank goodness for the cafe at the top and the chance for a rest.

We had barely started on our way again when the kite made its appearance, circling over the cliff edge and surrounding fields. It was magnificent to watch as it spotted its prey and swept down and off at breakneck speed.










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