Gallery: Have you experienced a thrilling encounter with a red kite?
18:50 02 April 2014
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Time was when the only place in Britain red kites could be seen were the wooded valleys of mid-Wales.
Thankfully, that is not the case today. Far from it. These large, spindly, angular and impressive birds of prey, once widespread over much of Britain and useful as cleaners-up of street carrion in less hygienic times, were wiped out from the majority of their range in the 19th Century by the gun and by poison.
Those mid-Wales valleys were their last stronghold. Until, that is, a welcome comeback brought about by an official re-introduction programme involving the RSPB and the then Nature Conservancy Council using birds from across Europe.
After the early days of the scheme in 1989 they have spread out from the programme’s heartlands of the Chilterns, the east Midlands, Yorkshire, the North-East and parts of Scotland. The species now breeds in small numbers in some areas in the eastern counties, although colonisation of Suffolk is proving a slow affair, with only a handful of nests reported.
Nevertheless, experiencing a thrilling encounter with a red kite virtually anywhere in the county is now much more likely than it has been for decades. Whereas for years it was purely a rather scarce passage migrant to and from the Continent, mainly in early spring and late autumn, the species is now a fairly frequent sight, especially in the Suffolk Brecks and along the coast.
It is larger and more attenuated than the stocky common buzzard, for example, its long, relatively thin wings and long, deeply forked and “twisty” tail, together with its bright russet tones, are the key identification features. On any warm, sunny day this spring – over almost any Suffolk field, wood, heath or reedbed - the red kite may well be lazily flapping or majestically soaring. It is certainly worth looking up into the wide blue yonder occasionally. The comeback kite is a sight worth seeing.
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