The full range of the Red Kite includes Europe, part of Scaninavia, Asia Minor, northwest Africa and the Canary and Cape Verde islands.
The European population is mainly centred in Germany, with large groupings in the higher reaches of the French Massif Central, where it takes over from the Black Kite (Milvus migrans) at about 800m (2,600ft), it taking over from the buzzard(Buteo buteo) at about 500m (1,600ft).
The bulk of the Welsh population, which is now beginning to spread more into England, are descended from the remnant of the population which once covered all of Britain, but many have been introduced from Europe and Scandinavia to boost the numbers and to introduce genetic variety, vital to sustain their viability as a resident population.
The kite family take a wider range of foods than most other families of raptors, and the Red Kite is no exception. Birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, invertebrates and carrion are taken in varying proportions, depending on local availability.
The British kites rely more on carrion than do their European counterparts, and this makes them vulnerable to poisoned meat (illegally) left out to catch foxes and the like.
The average daily food requirement of an adult Red Kite is 130g
The call of the red kite (which is rarely heard away from the nest or outside the breeding season) is a buzzard-like mewing.
It is, however easily distinguished from the call of the Common Buzzard by its tone and the frequency and rate of repetition.
Status and behaviour in the wild
The Red Kite is one of the relatively small number of birds of prey on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red list of endangered species. The list covers all flora and fauna and classifies entries as Endangered, Threatened, Vulnerable, Rare or Insufficiently Known. The Red Kite falls into the last category. In 1984 the world population was estimated to be not much more than 15,000 pairs.
Unmistakeable in flight, their cruciform silhouette and long, deeply forked tail are unique. The flight is buoyant and effortless, with tail and wings acting independently to catch every shift in wind. It also soars frerquently, usually alone but occasionally in small groups.
1-3 eggs are laid in early April and incubated for 31-38 days. Fledging is a long process, and can vary from 48-70 days.
The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has established hides close to the territories of Red Kites in a number of suitable locations in mid-Wales.
Red kites can be seen occasionally in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire, and a number of other locations in the southern part of the country, although their territories are literally few and far between, and to spot one is not yet a common occurrence.