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UK’s oldest red kite discovered in Wales – and then put down

An examination of the ring on the bird’s leg found it was 9,518 days old, having been ringed as a nestling in June 1997

Rod Minchin
Tuesday 10 October 2023 15:27 BST
Related video: Feeding the Kites in the Backyard

A red kite was identified as the oldest to survive in the wild in Britain and Ireland before being put down.

The 26-year-old bird was spotted by a member of the public in Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire in July in a poor condition and unable to fly.

An examination of the ring on the bird’s leg found it was 9,518 days old, having been ringed as a nestling in June 1997.

RSPCA wildlife officer Ellie West said: “This was such a beautiful bird – and I could tell that it was an adult and of a good age.

“There were no avian influenza symptoms but I was immediately concerned about its thin body condition and poor plumage.

“Unfortunately, due to the extent of the kite’s condition, it meant that the bird could not be helped and was put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

“The bird wasn’t able to fully extend its wings at carpal joints and was showing signs of bumblefoot along with other concerns, meaning sadly rehabilitation wasn’t an option.”

The British Trust for Ornithology confirmed the bird had been ringed as a nestling on June 20 1997 and said it was the oldest red kite known to them.

It’s brilliant when people take the time to report ringed birds, as it helps us to gain a greater understanding of bird populations across the UK

Lee Barber, British Trust for Ornithology

“I could not believe it as this bird was 26 years old – and was found in pretty much the same area they were ringed in all those years ago,” Ms West said.“It is very sad that the bird didn’t make it but at least they didn’t suffer a lingering death.“I’m sure they had a full life and it would be lovely to think that it may have reared several offspring over the years in the area too – although the sex is unknown.”

Lee Barber, from the British Trust for Ornithology, added: “This red kite now holds the longevity record for the oldest known wild red kite in Britain and Ireland.

“Amazingly, this is the first and only report of this bird in 26 years and 22 days since it was ringed as a nestling back in 1997.

“It’s brilliant when people take the time to report ringed birds, as it helps us to gain a greater understanding of bird populations across the UK.

“Had this bird not been wearing a ring we would have no indication at all that it had become the oldest known of its species, as once red kites have moulted out of their immature plumage, they look pretty much identical irrespective of age.”

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