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Scotland's red kites thriving again after 10 years of effort

17/10/2013 17:35:47

One of Argaty's 10-year old female red kites. Photo credit Victoria Hume.

Red-letter day for red kite projects as they celebrate tenth anniversaries

October 2013. Two of Scotland's most successful wildlife viewing projects are set to celebrate their tenth anniversaries this October.

Argaty Red Kites and the Galloway Kite Trail,
Both Argaty Red Kites near Doune, and the Galloway Kite Trail, near Castle Douglas, were opened in 2003, close to the sites of kite re-introductions that took place in the preceding years. Red kites are sociable birds, and naturally congregate together, particularly in the winter months, flocking noisily to available food sources, and forming large communal roosts at night.

The viewing projects give the public an opportunity to watch the birds up close in their natural environment, and since launching, both have attracted thousands of visitors, and provided an unforgettable experience for wildlife enthusiasts of all ages.


Scotland's red kites

  •  Red kites were re-introduced to Central Scotland through a joint initiative between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the RSPB. Working with other European conservationists, 20 young birds were brought to Central Scotland in 1996 and released into the wild at a secret location near Argaty. Over the next four years, another 83 birds were imported. Breeding occurred for the first time in 1998 when two pairs raised five young. 2012 saw the kites produce over 100 chicks for the first time, with similar outputs again this year, making the kite population well established and self-sustaining. 
  • A purpose built hide offers great close-up views of the kites coming down to the daily feed, whilst the project's visitor centre offers a flexible exhibition space, used for an array of activities and events. In addition, during the breeding season, a red kite nest-cam, provides fascinating and intimate footage of these stunning birds. CCTV technology beamed live video to the Argaty Red Kite Visitor Centre, allows visitors an opportunity to witness the day-to-day life of a red kite family, from the incubation and hatching of the eggs, to the development of the chicks into young adults.
  • Red kites were re-introduced to Dumfries & Galloway through a joint initiative between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the RSPB, with support from Forestry Commission Scotland and D&G Raptor Study Group. Working with other UK kite projects, 33 young birds were brought to Galloway in 2001 and released into the wild at a secret location in the Galloway Forest Park. Over the next four years, another 71 birds were released from there and 3 other locations in the Loch Ken area. Breeding occurred for the first time in 2003 when one chick was fledged from one of four nests. In 2013, 77 nests were found, rearing at least 91 chicks, bringing the population of kites to over 400 birds.


77 pairs in 2013
RSPB Scotland's Calum Murray, who has worked on the Galloway Kite Trail for more than six years, said: "This is both the tenth anniversary of the trail, and of the first red kite chick to fledge in Galloway since 1870, so it really is a special year for us. We had 77 pairs of kites nesting this year, and they're slowly spreading across the region. A lot of the success is thanks to local communities, farmers and land owners, as well as our small army of dedicated volunteers."

Mike McDonnell, from Argaty Red Kites, said: "Projects like these are really important for both protecting the kites, as they manage how people are interacting with them, but also for education. Kites have the ability to captivate people of all ages, especially when these stunning birds swoop down in front of them. It's been such a success, and we've had more than 100 chicks fledged this year as well, so despite continuing pressures, the kites are thriving."

Both viewing projects have proved to be popular tourist attractions, and have become real assets to their local communities. Argaty has welcomed over 50,000 visitors through its doors in the last ten years, while a study of the Galloway Kite Trail found that it helped to attract more than £4 million to the local economy, and sustains the equivalent of about 20 full time jobs every year.

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