Birds of Prey in the snow

Last Wednesday we took a trip down to Gigrin Farm to photograph the feeding of wild Kites. Firstly may I say what a wonderful job Chris Powell at Gigrin Farm & the Welsh Kite Trust do in helping these magnificent birds of prey to thrive once again. If possible please do show your support by visiting them; it’s a wonderful experience that you won’t forget.

Red Kites & Buzzards  Click any image to see a larger view …

During cold spells the number of birds needing the extra food can increase to a good few hundred, the skies were certainly full of them on Wednesday. And Red Kites weren’t the only species in attendance:

Red Kite

The picture above shows a Kite in company with Buzzard, Grey Heron and Crows.

The red Kite was once very common in the UK and enjoyed Crown protection during medieval times since the birds were so helpful in cleaning up the streets of towns. However this changed and the Kite found itself persecuted by some groups from the Victorian period onwards. Kites were eradicated completely from Scotland & England but just clung on in the remoter regions of mid-Wales. It is believed that at the worst point, only one breeding female survived. With the help of caring Farmers & conservation organisations the Red Kite is now thriving again and has been reintroduced to both Scotland & England.

When possible Kites prefer to skim the ground, pick up prey and then eat on the wing, as below:

Red Kite

Whilst most Red Kites show the classic chestnut / russet red colouration, occasionally some are born paler (leucistic), such as Gigrin’s “White Red Kite” . A paler Kite can be can see pictured below:

Red Kite

Red Kites (Milvus milvus) usually pair for life and whilst average longevity is about 10 years, some have been known to live well in to their 20’s. I think they have particularly captivating faces, as shown in the full res crop below:

Red Kite

Such a piercing stare of concentration.

Of the other species present the common Buzzard is perhaps the most impressive. A quite large & stocky bird of prey, it is a common sight at home with us in Dyfi forest. The common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) has a similar lifespan to that of the Kite. One clear behavioural difference that you will see at a feeding station is that the Buzzard prefers to eat on the ground vs. the Kite in the air. They are not easily intimidated by the Kites:

Red Kites & Buzzards

The kites do swoop in at considerable pace and are definitely not adverse to getting ‘up close & personal’ with the other avian life; as the heron below discovered:

Red Kites & Buzzards

Anyway this post has become plenty long enough, with many pictures. I am preparing a series of Bird of Prey prints & posters which I will start to release towards the end of the month on Posters Wales. If you have any special requests, please do email from the contact form & I’ll see what I can do for the more popular ones. Currently I really want to photograph a wild Welsh Hen Harrier but this could be a tricky one, so all sighting emails will be gladly received, thanks.

BTW a short video of flying & feeding Kites is to follow.


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1 Comment

  • Helen

    February 6, 2009 at 9:08 pm Reply

    Nice images. Just to let you know, the Chilterns red kites are doing well, and we currently have approx. 450-500 breeding pairs. We also collect chicks for translocation to other areas, the current project being Aberdeen.

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