Seeing a red kite soar through the sky is an unforgettable sight. It’s that time of year when you might spot these beautiful reddish-brown birds of prey, gliding on warm sunny days over open farmland, using their long v-shaped tail like a rudder, twisting it to turn through the air on thermals, or hear their whistling ‘peeeee-ooooww’ calls on the wind. At RSPB NI, we need your help spotting these iconic birds.

 Red kite, credit: Neal Warnock 

As you may be aware, these majestic birds of prey haven’t always been a feature of our skies, they were sadly persecuted to extinction and were absent from Northern Ireland for over 200 years. In 2008, RSPB NI, Welsh Kite Trust and the Golden Eagle Trust embarked on an ambitious reintroduction programme, and thanks to conservation efforts, red kites are becoming increasingly widespread across the country.

Last year, RSPB NI received over 400 sightings from members of the public, and it is now believed that we have around 29 territorial pairs here.  Although County Down, where they were re-introduced remains a hot spot, red kites have been spotted in all counties of Northern Ireland, most notably along the North Coast and Fermanagh.

 Red kite, credit: Ben Andrew rspb-image.com

Like most birds at this time of year, red kites will be busy nest building. They have been known to gather some unusual oddments to ‘decorate’ their nests, such as paper, carrier bags and rags – nests with toys and even underwear have even been recorded.

Red kites will often reuse the same nest the following year and RSPB NI’s red kite monitoring officer keeps an eye on many of these sites. Excitingly there are promising signs that Ireland’s oldest red kite has returned to her favourite nesting spot this season. She hasn’t been sighted yet, but her nest is looking fuller with new nesting materials. This red kite is of special significance, as she was part of the original reintroduction programme, making her 14 years old this year.

You can help RSPB NI keep track of these amazing birds – and possibly spot Ireland’s oldest red kite yourself, by keeping an eye on the skies and emailing redkiteni@rspb.org.uk with the date, time and location of any sightings, and if possible, the colour and code on the wing tag.  These sightings are incredibly valuable to our conservation work, as they help build a picture of how red kite populations are faring across Northern Ireland.

For more information about RSPB NI’s conservation projects or to support our work, go to rspb.org.uk/ni

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