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Red Kite

Red Kite
Both sexes: Reddish brown with whitish head and forked tail.

The graceful Red Kite is larger than a Buzzard and has long wings and a very distinctive forked tail, which makes the kites very agile in flight.

Overall, the plumage is reddish-brown with blackish streaking, but the deeply forked tail is orange-red. The head is whitish with darker streaks. The black bill is hooked with a yellow cere. The legs, eye and eye ring are also yellow. Males and females are alike but the latter are larger.

Juveniles have less distinct streaking and the under-tail coverts are pale brown instead of reddish.

In flight, the forked tail and pale patches towards the tips of the wings are distinguishing features.


Scientific Name Milvus milvus
Length 60-66 cm (24-26")
Wing Span 145-165 cm (57-65")
Weight 750-1000 g (1½-2¼ lb)
Breeding Pairs 650+
Present All Year
Status Green

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


Their display call is a pleasant high-pitched mewing "weee-ooo ee oo ee oo ee oo".

Display Call

© Jean Roché,


They are ground feeders. The diet is chiefly carrion, but they will also kill live prey, such as birds, small mammals and invertebrates like earthworms, by diving from the air or dropping on to the prey from a perch.

In urban areas they will scavenge at refuse tips and also visit gardens where meat scraps are put out for them.


Red Kites are woodland birds of hilly areas with nearby open spaces. The nest is usually in a tall tree and is built by the female from material brought to the site by the male. The nest is constructed from twigs and mud, and usually decorated with rubbish including rags and polythene bags.

The female does most of the incubating and brooding, and the male brings her food. Both adults feed the young birds once their first feathers have developed. The young are independent about 80 days from hatching.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
March-May 1 2-3 28-30 c.50


British Red Kites are mainly sedentary though juvenile birds disperse widely in the autumn and then return in the spring.


The Red Kite has recovered from the brink of extinction around the 1930s, when just one pair were successfully breeding in Mid-Wales, owing to the outstanding conservation effort of several conservation bodies. The main thrust of the conservation programme has been to reintroduce young birds in to several areas of England and Scotland.

Sadly, even today, despite its special protection status, this elegant bird is being persecuted and illegally poisoned, but the population is increasing and spreading and could soon be at a place near you.