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Red kite (Milvus milvus)

The magnificent red kite use its spectacular wingspan to great effect, soaring high above roads and fields to spot carrion on the ground.

Common name: red kite

Scientific name: Milvus milvus

Family: Accipitridae (hawks and eagles)

Appearance

Head: unlike the rest of the bird, the head is pale grey in colour and is patterned with brown streaks.

Wings: the angled wings span 185cm and are a mix of brown and black colours on top. Underneath, there is a bright white patch on the outer edge. 

Body: is a rusty reddish-brown colour. The red kite has a famously, deeply forked tail.

Where to spot

Red kites can be seen all year round. It glides through the air above wooded valleys, pasture and open countryside as well as in suburban areas and towns. Once confined to Wales, a reintroduction scheme has brought the red kite back to many parts of the UK and now they are easily spotted in the Chilterns and central Scotland.

Feeding

The red kite is a scavenger and eats mostly carrion and worms. If necessary it will sometimes catch small live prey, primarily voles, mice and birds.

Breeding

It first breeds at two years old and raises two to four young in a large nest, between March and June. 

Facts

  • It is attracted to shiny and colourful objects often incorporating them into their nests
  • Was once a common bird in London and scavenged for scraps and rags for nest building
  • Shakespeare refers to the red kite 15 times in his works
  • Typical lifespan is four years