Red Kite, Mid-Wales
SOARING ON THE WIND
Limited Edition Print *
The red kite (Milvus milvus) is a medium-large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as eagles, buzzards, and harriers.
Red kites are 60 to 70 cm long with a 175–179 cm (69–70 in) wingspan; males weigh 800–1,200 g and females 1,000–1,300 g. It is an elegant bird, soaring on long wings held at a dihedral, and long forked tail, twisting as it changes direction. The body, upper tail and wing coverts are rufous [reddish-brown or brownish-red]. The white primary flight feathers contrast with the black wing tips and dark secondaries. Apart from the weight difference, the sexes are similar, but juveniles have a buff breast and belly. Its call is a thin piping sound, similar to but less mewling than the common buzzard.
The red kite's diet consists mainly of small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, young hares and rabbits. It feeds on a wide variety of carrion including sheep carcasses and dead game birds. Live birds are also taken and occasionally reptiles and amphibians. Earthworms form an important part of the diet, especially in spring
In the United Kingdom red kites were ubiquitous scavengers that lived on carrion and rubbish. Shakespeare's King Lear describes his daughter Goneril as a detested kite, and he wrote "when the kite builds, look to your lesser linen" in reference to them stealing washing hung out to dry in the nesting season. In the mid-15th century King James II of Scotland decreed that they should be "killed wherever possible", but they remained protected in England and Wales for the next 100 years as they kept the streets free of carrion and rotting food. Under Tudor "vermin laws" many creatures were seen as competitors for the produce of the countryside and bounties were paid by the parish for their carcasses.
By the 20th century the breeding population was restricted to a handful of pairs in South Wales, but recently the Welsh population has been supplemented by re-introductions in England and Scotland.
In 1999 the red kite was named 'Bird of the Century' by the British Trust for Ornithology. It has been unofficially adopted as the national bird of Wales
* This image is a Limited Edition Print of 350 for all sizes larger than 12"x8 ".