Six reasons not to feed red kites
If you live in or near the Chilterns, you’ll know that red kites are one of Britain’s most magnificent and distinctive birds of prey, with fanned forked tails, a reddish-brown body and a distinctive mewing call. They’re a marvel to see circling overhead.
In Marlow in 2019 a mother described a quick-thinking red kite swooping to steal sandwiches out of her two young children’s hands, leaving one child with a scratch on its head. This made headlines, but this is not the natural behaviour of these birds – like seagulls they only gain such boldness when people feed them.
From Victorian times onwards red kites were persecuted almost to the point of extinction due to misconceptions about their behaviour. People saw them feeding on dead lambs and pheasants and mistakenly thought the kites had killed them. The reality is that red kites are predominantly carrion feeders – they feed mostly on dead animals. Although they’re big birds they weigh less than a bag of sugar and they are too weak footed to catch anything other than a small rabbit. In modern times they do an important job of helping to clear the countryside of dead animals. The persecution of red kites was such that by the 1980s, red kites had become one of only three globally threatened species in the UK.
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