Red kites programme celebrates breeding success

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The Independent Online

There has been a baby boom among the north east of England's famous red kites, it was revealed today. Eight pairs of the spectacular birds of prey have between them reared 11 chicks this year despite the appalling summer weather.

Project manager Keith Bowey said: "This is great news that underlines the success of the project and reflects the hard work and dedication of the project team, our volunteers, and the Northern Kites partnership. "This is only our second breeding season, and considering this summer's appalling weather, this is an astonishingly good performance from the birds - clearly the north east's kites are made of strong stuff. "We are thrilled that a viable red kite population has become established in the region in such a short space of time."

Red kites were reintroduced to the region two years ago as part of the Northern Kites project, which is a world fist in re-introducing the birds close to an urban area.

The Northern Kites project is managed by the RSPB and English Nature, working in partnership with Gateshead Council, Northumbrian Water, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission, with additional funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and SITA Trust.

Despite facing one of the wettest summers on record, at least eleven young red kites have been successfully reared this year by eight pairs of kites.

In total, there were eleven known nesting attempts by red kites in the north east of England. Ten pairs of kites went on to lay eggs, with eight pairs successfully rearing at least eleven chicks. Elsewhere in the UK, some red kite populations have experienced a poor breeding season with nesting attempts failing in many areas because of wet weather and continued illegal poisoning.

The red kites are clearly settling happily into suburbia and the birds are now a regular sight over Gateshead's Derwent Valley.

This year a pair of kites nested close to the Tesco Metro store in Rowlands Gill, where they successfully raised two young.

Mr Bowey added: "In Shakespeare's time, red kites were a familiar sight feeding in the streets of London. Perhaps nesting next to Tesco is the 21st century equivalent?"

A pair of kites also nested in Northumberland this summer, the first time kites have been proven to nest in the county since at least the 1830s.

Meanwhile, today also sees the launch of a new red kite stamp from Royal Mail, celebrating the spectacular conservation success story.

Pictures of the birds that are now back soaring over Tyneside will soon be popping through letterboxes throughout the country, as one of a set of 10 new bird stamps.

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