Red Kite Update

This time of the year sees plenty of young red kites that have flown the nest…

After a long breeding season, the adults will be taking a hard earned rest having raised their chicks for almost two months and incubated the eggs for a month.  Many people are often left wondering where all the kites have disappeared to, and I receive many enquiries about this. The kites are still present, just not as conspicuous, spending a lot of time perching in the trees looking decidedly sorry for themselves!

The summer/autumn time offers an opportunity to note the difference between adults and young kites when in flight. The kites most likely to be seen will look decidedly tatty, with many gaps in their wings and tail where their flight feathers have dropped – this is due to their annual moult, which takes place over a number of months as their used feathers are replaced by new ones.

The exception to the tatty looking adult kites, are the juveniles who have recently fledged. Their appearance will be clean with all flight feathers neatly in place. Their plumage differs from the adult, in that they have a paler ‘washed out’ russet colour. This is replaced by the more recognisable deep russet colour in their second year. Their tails are also not as deeply forked as the adults. Additionally during their first months, their eye colour is grey, which gradually changes to the familiar yellow.

Although many of the young kites will have taken their first tentative flight from the nest in early July, they often continue to stay close to the natal area for a number of weeks, whilst still being provided food by the adults. However, with no particular hunting skills to learn from the adults, the young kites are eventually ‘left on their own’ meaning they will need to scavenge for food just as the adults do, along the country lanes and among the fields, farmland and hills of the Chilterns.

Primarily scavengers, much of the kite’s diet consists of road kill, especially here in the Chilterns which is rich in wildlife. Unfortunately, as a consequence of this, as they are swooping down to feed on the road kill they are occasionally hit by passing traffic resulting in injury or death. They have also been hit by trains, and by traffic on the motorway – notably the M40, again as a result of swooping down for food.

If you find a dead red kite, please email, or call 07795 428806 for further advice. Alternatively, call Helen Olive on 95221 6763 during office hours. If you find a sick or injured kite, please call the local wildlife hospital Tiggywinkles, located in Haddenham on 01844 292292.

For further information about the Chilterns red kites, along with local contact details of those who can provide advice, go to or call Helen Olive on ext 6763.