Belongs to: birds of prey

Compare with: marsh harrier

Red kite Milvus milvus

Birds of Conservation Concern amber list


Best time to see: all year

Key facts

An iconic bird of prey, persecuted almost to extinction in Britain in the 1800s but now recovering due to conservation action

A large bird with a distinctive forked tail, primarily a scavenger taking carrion such as dead sheep, but also hunts small prey

Hung on in rural mid-Wales, and now reintroduced to both England and Scotland

Recognition

Predominantly chestnut with a pale grey head and white patches under the wings; strongly forked tail; m. 55 cm, f. 60 cm

Wingspan nearly 2m, but light for their size – body weight only around 1 kg

Graceful and effortless in flight, with black primary feathers ('fingers') spread at its wing-tips

Lifecycle

Breed for the first time at 2 or 3 years old, building an untidy stick nest high in trees such as oaks

Courtship and nest-building starts in March or April; usually 2 eggs, sometimes more

  • Main photo

Photo © Ken King