An EU red kite Action Plan has been written by the RSPB (on behalf of BirdLife International) with input from raptor experts across the continent.  red kite nest

It fingers poisoning as the main reason for big declines in the populations in Spain, France and Germany.  Most European red kites travel down to Spain and Portugal in winter  - so poisoning there affects not just the large Spanish population but also the red kites living elsewhere in Europe.

Last week I was in Spain and heard that poisoning is often associated with shooting estates where red-legged partridges are the main quarry species.

Many years ago a group of us travelled to Spain from the UK to help with a winter survey of red kite numbers.  I was based in northern Spain, in Zamora, in January, and with a colleague travelled around counting red kites from roads and tracks.  It was great fun! 

The fortunes of red kites have waxed and waned over the years.  About 20 years ago they were listed as globally threatened species as their numbers had declined dramatically, but then they recovered, and now it looks as though their numbers are dropping very sharply again.

Of course, in the UK, thanks to reintroduction projects, red kites are now getting commoner and commoner, and spreading to new areas all the time.  The reintroductions into the UK used birds from Spain and Sweden.  Maybe we'll be providing red kites to fuel reintroductions to parts of Spain in future?  I hope that won't be needed - but it would be fitting if we could repay the favour that Spanish conservationists, and Spanish kites, did us back in the 1980s.

And unfortunately, red kites are still poisoned in the Uk - the Scottish reintroductions have worked less well than the english ones partly because of poisoning - but poisoning is a risk for red kites in Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland.  Such activity is totally illegal - but continues - so please sign our bird of prey pledge.


  • Great article Mark. Always nice to see England beating the Germans (and French and Spanish)! ;-)

    Just wanted to say as I've now moved north of the border, its only the Black isle population which is doing really badly because of the poisoning. here in Dumfries and Galloway the kites are going great guns, and think they're doing ok over in Aberdeen as well. Keep up the good work!

  • Yes Mark,poisoning of raptors always seems to make a lot of us sad and can only hope that gradually public opinion will have beneficial effect.In my younger days never thought I would see a Red Kite but in the last few years have seen several in mid Wales,one in Derbyshire and Sweep who was desperate to see one in Dorset,saw one in the distance when I was at work which I do part time,she dashed in and got the camera so she had evidence,by this time it was about half a mile away but anyway with computer technology you can easily see it is a Red Kite.