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Scottish red kites soar in 2008

The Scottish red kite population is now at its highest level for 200 years following one of the best ever breeding seasons this year, and an ongoing reintroduction project around Aberdeen.  The Scottish population now stands at 122 breeding pairs, with the UK population as a whole growing to an estimated 1200 breeding pairs.

Red kites were once common all over the British Isles, before widespread killing of the birds in Victorian times led to only a few pairs surviving in mid-Wales.  In 1989, the UK reintroduction project began in the South of England and the North of Scotland, and the fruits of this project are now paying off.

The healthy growth of the UK red kite population since reintroduction began in the late 1980’s is increasing the UK’s importance for the species globally, with 1200 pairs representing around 5% of the world population.

Red kites are almost entirely confined to Europe, and the species is faring badly in many other countries, with population declines recorded in the main breeding areas of Germany, France and Spain.  Land use changes, illegal poisoning, and rodenticide poisoning have been affecting populations, with the species now classified as “near threatened” by the World Conservation Union due to their population declines in Europe.

There are a number of places across Scotland where red kites can be seen. Perhaps the best viewing station is at Argaty Red Kites at Doune near Stirling, who are opening a new visitor centre at the beginning of October.

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