The red kite was once a familiar scavenging bird in the British Isles. It is known to have been common in the streets of Tudor London picking up what it could from the city’s rubbish heaps. In more recent times the kite became a very rare bird in the British Isles. It held on to its strongholds in hanging oak wooded valleys of Wales where it still thrives. These birds of preywere reluctant to colonise other suitable areas and in recent times a reintroduction project was started in several areas of the UK. It was decided to give these foragers a helping hand and sites in England and Scotland were selected for a series of release schemes.
Now the kite has established itself as a breeding bird in several areas of England and has even been seen flying and feeding around the suburbs of London again. Further north in parts of Scotland the reintroduction of the kites have also been a great success story with birds flying and breeding again in three different areas. Up north the birds have been established in the Black Isle area of Ross-shire. Rural Stirlingshire now has a healthy breeding population and the bird can be seen at the feeding station at Ardgaty Farm. Down in Galloway in South West Scotland, after several seasons of setbacks, the red kite has made an amazing re-colonisation of the Glenkens area near Castle Douglas. The project has been so successful that a local Red Kite Trail has been set up around the hot spots for seeing these red-brown and grey-headed raptors. The red kite (lvus<) is up to 65cm long with a wingspan of up to 165cm. In past times it was severely persecuted and driven to extinction by game bird shooting interests. Nowadays landowners are starting to take a more tolerant attitude this bird of prey.
Red kites can usually be seen from one of the six points along the Galloway Kite Trail:
1) Bennan Hill viewpoint
2) The Secret Cages
3) RSPB Ken Dee Marshes Reserve
4) Mossdale Walk
5) Parton Walk
6) Bellymack Hill Farm Kite Feeding Station.
Kites can be seen at any of these points along the trail and a free leaflet with a map of these sites is available locally. This leaflet also lists local food and accommodation providers. The kites are resident throughout the year and winter can be a particularly good time to see them. The feeding station at Bellymack Hill Farm is open for feeding throughout the year. Feeding time is 2pm and there are always some kites around for this daily event