Wildlife In Focus | Red Kite

David Coultham

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Red Kite (Milvus milvus) Species Guide:

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Video | Everything You Need To Know About The Red Kite

Conservation Status

The Red Kite (Milvus milvus) was hunted and killed for several centuries in the U.K. Add to this the impact that egg collectors had, and the result was that by the 1930s only 10 breeding pairs remained. In 1990 they were saved from extinction when 13 adults were flown across via jet from Spain and reintroduced to Scotland and England.

Since then, numbers have increased and it is estimated that there are over 4600 breeding pairs. Since then, the protection of the species and its reintroduction has been heralded as one of the most successful conservation successes in the U.K. Red Kites are listed under Schedule 1 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act.

DID YOU KNOW? Approximately 10% of the entire world population of Red Kites are resident in the U.K.

The main threat to the Red Kite nowadays is illegal poisoning by bait left out for foxes and other mammals, and/or eating mammals that have themselves been poisoned. In March 2024, laws were put in place in Scotland to regulate industries that historically have targeted birds of prey. These include the grouse and pheasant shooting leisure industry, some of which have openly declared that they feel the new laws are an attack on them.

The global conservation status for the Red Kite is Least concern. The U.K Conservation Status is Green.

Conservation Status

Conservation Status


Red Kites are opportunistic feeders and will eat Carrion. They will also hunt small mammals and invertibrates.

Red Kite


Red Kites favor woodlands, mountains, pastoral, and even urban environments.

Note that this map is for a rough illustration of animal distribution across the U.K. Whereby dark green indicates denser populations and lighter greens indicate progressively lower populations.3


Of all the raptors in the British Isles, the Red Kite is instantly recognizable due to its striking rich-red and brown coloring with flashes of whiteon its wings. They have a very distinctive forked tail and an angular wing stance. Red Kites have predominantly yellow beaks, and yellow legs and talons.

DID YOU KNOW? The first official records of Red Kites in the U.K. date right back to Anglo Saxon times.


Diurnal in nature, they roost singly, in pairs, and sometimes in small groups. They prefer to hunt over open land, and can often be spotted in trees on the borders of open fields; where they will sit and wait for prey to appear. They also circle high in the sky over an area waiting for prey to appear. They can fly at speeds of up to 100 mph but are even more impressive when they spot prey. They perform death-defying dives reaching speeds of up to 113 mph, coming to a full stop just above the ground as they snatch their prey using their talons, and then rapidly climb back into the sky.

A male and female will pair for life. Both the male and female share the task of building a nest. Often selecting old nest sites of other birds and building on those for their own needs. The female will typically lay 2 eggs, but clutches of 4 eggs have been known. They only raise one clutch a year as fledging takes 60 days with both parents looking after the youngsters for a further 15-20 days.

Red Kite Call:

Tanguy Loïs xeno-canto.org

Red Kite Song:

Olivier SWIFT xeno-canto.org

Red Kite


Adults range in height between 60 and 66cm, weighing in at between 800 and 1300g. They have an impressive wingspan of up to around 195cm.2

Red Kites typically live for 4 years in the wild, although the oldest bird ever recorded in the wild was nearly 26 years old.


Mature birds do not have any natural predators, however, their nests can be susceptible to predation by other birds.


  1. Population data based on BTO assessment
  2. featherbase
  3. JNCC Population Density
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