Red Kites in urban areas

Widespread supplementary feeding in domestic gardens explains the return of reintroduced Red Kites Milvus milvus to an urban area

Red Kite

Red Kite by Peter Hassett

Reintroductions are commonly used to mitigate biodiversity loss. One prominent example is that of the Red Kite Milvus milvus, a charismatic raptor of conservation concern. This species has been reintroduced across the UK over the last 25 years following its near extinction after centuries of persecution. The species was not expected to recolonize urban areas; its historical association with human settlements is attributed to scavenging on human waste and refuse, a resource now greatly reduced on the streets of modern European cities. However, the species has become a common daytime visitor to a large conurbation centred on the town of Reading, southern England, approximately 20 km from the first English reintroduction site. Given a near-absence of breeding and roost sites, we investigated foraging opportunities and habitat associations that might explain use by Red Kites of this urban area. Surveys of discarded human foods and road-kill suggested that these could support at most 13–29 Kites per day. Face-to-face surveys of a cross-section of residents revealed that 4.5% (equivalent to 4349 households) provided supplementary food for Red Kites in their gardens. Using estimates of per-household resource provision from another study, we calculated that this is potentially sufficient to feed 142–320 Kites, a substantial proportion of the total estimated to visit the conurbation each day (between 140 and 440). Road transects found positive associations between Red Kites and residential areas. We suggest that the decision made by thousands of householders to provide supplementary food for Red Kites in their gardens is the primary factor explaining their daytime abundance in this urban area.

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This link will take you to an article we published in March 2015 on Red Kites in the urban environment.

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