The Return of the Red Kite

Some of us in the UK might’ve noticed that we’ve been seeing regular sightings of a bird which we did not grow up with.

Red kites were a common sight all over the UK back in the Middle Ages. As carrion birds they mainly feed on dead animals and, of course, there was plenty of that sort of thing lying around in medieval times.

The birds almost became extinct here in the UK. In 15th century Scotland, people were encouraged to kill them and in 16th century England, they were almost totally wiped out under the ‘vermin act’ in the centuries that followed and, so, by the end of the 19th century, they survived only in parts of Wales, in ever dwindling numbers.

After being carefully and successfully bred and introduced back into various parts of the UK (starting in 1989) they have become a familiar sight again for many of us, and this success story continues as this work continues.

You can tell a red kite by its white bands on the under side of the wing and chestnut brown colouring and also by the shape of its tail, which is forked inwards and not fanned outwards. Their wingspan can be over five foot.

I’ve been really excited to see red kites recently in Bracknell – even flying over my garden – but I hadn’t been able to photograph them with my standard lens.

I recently picked up a Canon EFS 55 – 250mm ISII for £100. It’s truly amazing what a £100 lens can do – okay, these images are not pro (feel free to buy me £2000 worth of glass for that!), but this lens has captured the birds’ beautiful colourings quite well I think. Below are some pics I shot last Monday near Henley-on-Thames.

Rosaleen Donnan

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