Urban return for red kites

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The Independent Online
Once extinct in England and Scotland, the spectacular red kite, a bird of prey with a 5ft wing span, could soon become a familiar sight in places as urban and unromantic as Wolverhampton or Derby.

This summer, red kites have bred in the Midlands for the first time in more than 100 years.

Despite continued persecution by landowners and egg thieves, 48 pairs of red kites bred successfully in England this year, rearing 105 young.

Most were in southern England, where the scavenging bird was reintroduced in 1989. But it is the breakthrough in the Midlands that has most excited conservationists.

Kites were introduced there in 1995 and of four pairs which attempted to breed this year, three were successful, raising eight young. One pair reared four young.

While the red kites have so far kept to the countryside, that could change if the birds continue to increase in numbers. Unlike many birds of prey, notably the golden eagle, it is by no means reclusive. In medieval times, kites scavenged the streets of London.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds does not expect such a comeback, but experts believe it could become a common sight over towns and cities.