About Red Kites

Latin name: Milvus Milvus                                      


The red kite has a wing span of five and a half feet. It has a reddish-brown body and wings with black tips, a grey head and distinctive rufous forked tail. The underside of the wings have black, brown and white feathers.


Image courtesy of Kevin Gray


800 - 1200g. Generally, males are lighter than females by approximately 5% but there is an overlap.ie a large male could be heavier than a small female.


Carrion, small mammals and worms, fish.


Wooded hills and open country.

Nests in woodland trees, 8 - 20 metres from the ground. Kites will sometimes use an old buzzard's or crow's nest.

The nest is made from twigs and lined with wool, often decorated with coloured polythene, rags and unusual objects such as gloves, socks and toys.


1- 3, occasionally 4 eggs, laid from late March onwards. Incubation takes 31 - 33 days, fledging in 50 - 70 days.

Life span

Usually 4 to 5 years, but individuals can live for 25-30 years.


Their call is a high, often repetitive 'mewing' .  

Here is a video showing kites in flight:  http://www.birdforum.tv/action/viewvideo/2275

BBC  Wildlife................. more information



 Red Kites are extremely skilful and here, taken by Tom Melton,  we see kites swooping to take dead carrion from a Lake.


Kite takes prey from lake

and here, feeding on the wing.

Kites are sociable birds, but during severe weather conditions, they become more competitive and  often struggle to seize food from each other as they feed on the wing.

Kies feeding on the wing

These two images are kindly donated by Colin Crowdey, a Wiltshire photographer.  Several of his images have appeared in the media.  His Gallery can be found at http://lcc-images.com/

Another recent photograph shows the dexterity of the kite as it feeds on the wing.

Kite feeding on the wing 


Kites will often fly in close proximity to one another, as in this image by Nick Holland of Birdfroum.


The kites will often gather together to form roosts.

Kite roost

Image courtesy of Gerry Whitlow


Dr. Tim Harrison of the British Trust for Ornithology asks:


There are many birds that people might expect to see in their garden but, for most, Red Kites are not one. A growing trend for people to provide food for Red Kites, however, is changing the garden bird scene in some parts of the country. Tim Harrison, of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), finds out more.

The opportunity to see a magnificent bird of prey from the comfort of one's own living room is relatively rare. When the species involved is one that was almost extinct in the UK just a few decades ago, the draw is almost irresistible. Red Kites are now making a strong recovery in several regions and householders are tapping into their willingness to take scraps from gardens in order to get a good view of them.

Being proficient scavengers and not averse to visiting urban areas (William Shakespeare once referred to London as 'a city of Red Kites and Crows') Red Kites can find rich pickings in gardens. Concern has grown, however, about feeding this species, including what to feed them and when, and about how such provision might strain neighbourly relations. A collaborative group, including Natural England, Southern England Kite Group and the Zoological Society of London, have issued some sensible best practice guidelines.

The right foods.
The best foods to provide are likely to be those based on whole small mammal (e.g.mouse, rat) carcasses.   These can be bought from pet food suppliers. Cooked or processed meats should be avoided, and meats that do not contain skin or bone should only be provided sparingly. It is best to mimic natural foods eaten by Red Kites since these are most likely to contain a full complement of required nutrients. Corpses that are found in the wild are best avoided because they might be
diseased or might contain poisons.

Feeding schedule.
Feeding in the afternoon so that kites use their natural foraging habits during the earlier part of the day is recommended. There is no evidence that food supplementation causes wild birds to loose their natural foraging ability but it is likely to benefit individuals if they keep these skills well - honed. Uneaten food should be removed at the end of the day so that vermin and other scavengers are not attracted overnight.

Talk with your neighbours.
Before trying to attract Red Kites into your garden, have a chat with your neighbours. The meat that you provide is unlikely to only attract Red Kites - other scavengers, such as crows and gulls, will also take the food. Consider too, whether your neighbours might be intimidated by these large birds of prey.


People often wonder how to tell the difference between a red kite and a buzzard, another bird of prey.

In this next image, kindly sent in by one of our members, we see a Common Buzzard in flight.


Two distinct differences are apparent:  the buzzard's wings are more rounded and the tail is a fan-shape.   It is more compact and does not have the grey head of the kite.

Image courtesy of Ross Forsyth 

In this photograph by Ross Forsyth,  we can see the confrontation between a red kite and a buzzard,

 Kite versus buzzard

  and again in this photograph a red kite swoops down on a buzzard feeding on the ground.

Kite  v  Buzzard
Image courtesy of Tom Melton

 Go to this thread to learn more about the Buzzard as a KILLER and people's reactions.