Thursday, 8 January 2015

Red kites in the back garden

We're lucky enough to live in a part of the country where red kites are thriving. They were extinct in England until 25 years ago when they were re-introduced near here. Since then they've gone from strength to strength and now it would be unusual to look out of the window and not see one gliding overhead. I occasionally leave some food on the lawn for them, to help them out a bit, but also because it's such an amazing spectacle to see a huge bird diving out of the sky and snatching food from right in front of you.

I put some raw chicken wings in the middle of the lawn and within a few minutes the kites had started circling (top left of picture) and the magpies and crows were gathering in the tree. They'll snatch the chicken if the kites don't come down, but keep their distance usually and see what's left over.

The kites circle around the garden, repeatedly calling, with more and more joining in. They circle high overhead to start with, gradually getting lower and lower, making sure it's safe to dive. They take a good look and even peer in the windows as they glide past. They don't seem to mind people too much, but they definitely don't like cameras or binoculars and both would put them off diving. It means you have to be a bit sneaky when you try and get a photo of them. The photos below were taken out of my kitchen window, but I had to hide the camera until they'd actually swooped down.

The tension builds, until eventually one bird will dive out of the sky and try to snatch the chicken. That seems to act as a trigger, so they all have a go, often diving straight after each other. They are incredibly fast and very quiet. They quite often miss or drop the chicken, but it's soon grabbed by one of the others. When they've got a piece, they head off to a nearby tree to eat it, often chased by another kite that would happily steal it from them.

They put on quite a show!

Chicken snatched, he heads off between the trampoline, bushes and climbing frame!

A few beats of his massive wings and he's soon made off with the chicken


  1. I saw your Twitter nomination, well done! I live in Hertfordshire which isn't a million miles from the Chilterns and I too have kites overhead but not in the numbers you do. I finally finished Steve the rabbit after seeing your blog as I too think I can get them in my garden. My blog about it is here if you'd like a look :)

  2. Thanks Austin! I love Steve and I bet they took a good look at him. They don't miss very much! You could try throwing a couple of chicken wings out with Steve, as that may just get them down. I could never get my trail camera to catch any images of the kites, as they're so quick. It didn't even realize they were there - it's only a cheap one though, so hopefully yours would do better.
    Is your blog on the BBC Wildlife forum? If not, you should start a thread and put it on there. It's great and something different that lots of people would love reading.
    Thanks for posting a comment and mentioning my blog on yours!