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Lamb is NOT on the menu for red kites, farmers told

10/02/2012 12:06:50

NO THREAT: The red kite. Picture: RSPB

February 2012: Kites are scavengers, preferring to dine on worms, scraps and mice, so lambs are safe, RSPB are assuring farmers.

With the lambing season in full swing, the RSPB is emphasizing that red kites do not pose any threat. These spectacular birds are once again making themselves at home in Northern Ireland after an absence of 200 years.

Red kites are chiefly scavengers says Adam McClure, RSPB red kite officer. ‘Kites do not hunt mobile prey, but prefer to feed on meat scraps, earthworms, carcasses, frogs and the occasional mouse or rat.

Lacking power, strength and speed
‘These birds of prey lack the power, strength and speed to take anything larger than a young rabbit, never mind a lamb.'

Since the start of the reintroduction programme in Northern Ireland in 2008, when red kites were released near Castlewellan, the RSPB has been working closely with Co. Down farmers and the birds are now a source of local pride.

As red kites expand their territory and begin to range far and wide, the RSPB is spreading this message further afield too.

‘If red kites are new in an area, local farmers may not be used to seeing this large russet bird in their skies, but they need to know there is no need to worry during lambing season,' says Adam.

‘Appearances may be deceiving, but the red kite is actually a bit of a wimp. These birds may look amazing wheeling high above, but they do not have the size, power or the agility to take prey on the move. Kites can be lazy too, if they can get a meal without killing, so much the better.'

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