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Sunday, 26 August 2012 00:00

Red Kite Project - Irish bred kites nest in Wicklow

Red kite chicks and gloves Red kite chicks and gloves (c) Marc Ruddock

An Irish Red Kite, hatched and fledged from a nest in Wicklow, has for the first time nested, bred and reared its own young near Redcross. As part of the national bird of prey reintroduction programmes in Ireland, Red Kites, Golden Eagles and White-tailed Eagles have all bred in Ireland in recent years. But all these breeding adults have hatched in their respective donor stock countries (Wales, Scotland and Norway) and were subsequently collected and reared in Ireland. This summer the breakthrough came when an Irish bred Red Kite, hatched and fledged from a nest in Wicklow in 2010, has bred itself and reared its own young. This is a major milestone in the gradual restoration of kites and eagles to their traditional haunts in Ireland.

This breeding kite was one of the first wild-bred Irish kites, "Blue Blue 7", hatched just outside Avoca village in 2010 and was recorded breeding at this year's nest which had a web-camera fitted. This camera allowed the public to track the fortunes of two kite chicks until they fledged. "Blue Blue 7" was a male and it bred with a female "Blue Purple T" released from the first year of the project in 2007.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D. welcomed the news of the successful breeding this year. He said "I have been following the progress of this project with keen interest since I took office and I am delighted that we now have a second generation of kites in Ireland. I congratulate the project team on this success and am particularly grateful to farmers and landowners in Wicklow for the way in which they have helped to look after these birds."

The project is part of an All-Ireland effort to restore red kites. There were 120 Red Kites released in County Wicklow between 2007 and 2011 and subsequently 80 Red Kites were released in County Down between 2008 and 2010 and 40 kites were released in Fingal, County Dublin in 2011.

The Irish Red Kite Reintroduction Program is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), of the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and the Welsh Kite Trust. The Wicklow project has been funded by NPWS, the Heritage Council and Greenstar Ireland and supported by Coillte Teoranta. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) released the birds in Northern Ireland.

The level of local support and interest in red kites among local people in Wicklow has been exceptional from the start. Over a hundred people attended an open day on red kites in the Woodenbridge Hotel in April this year and the newly formed Aughrim Rugby Club has adopted the red kite as their club logo. People simply enjoy watching the graceful flight and antics of soaring kites and areas such as Avoca, Rathdrum and Redcross are now attracting visitors in search of the kites. Red Kites are quickly becoming another symbolic attraction of the wooded Wicklow landscape.

In the distant past, our ancestors closely observed Red Kites across the country. One almost forgotten Irish name for the Red Kite was Preachán Ceirteach - meaning the Cloth Kite [or Cloth Scavenger]. This close association between kites and people was reinforced this year when a nest near Rathdrum was lined with six soft DIY gloves, four socks and part of a pair of water-proof trousers! Obviously Irish kites are still lining their nests with old rags and rubbish.

Overall, this breeding season, the project team located 24 pairs of kites in Wicklow, which were defending territories or showing signs of breeding activity. Seventeen of these pairs are confirmed to have laid eggs.

Subsequently six nests are known to have failed in the horrendous wind and rain this summer. Three nests were blown completely from the trees. Eleven successful nests are known to have produced 23 young kites. This includes three broods of three chicks, which is an indication of the suitability of the kite territories. In total, 52 wild bred chicks have been produced in Wicklow between 2010 and 2012. The number of wild Wicklow bred chicks reared annually is now matching the number of Welsh young released initially and the Golden Eagle Trust is confident that the Red Kites can regain their traditional place in the Wicklow landscape.

The ringing and tagging of kite chicks was undertaken in June with red wing-tags fitted on the right wing, being used as the 2012 colour code - allowing observers to identify individuals and age the kites. Seven territories were located in Coillte forests. We look forward to developing our existing co-operation with Coillte management and exploring ways of enhancing the management and public viewing of kites in Wicklow.

But the majority of kite nests were found on farms and private residences and once again we sincerely acknowledge the vital support of scores of kite watchers in County Wicklow. The key role of farming in increasing Ireland's wildlife is vital and Red Kite Project Manager, Dr Marc Ruddock, said; "The level of co-operation and support from the local community and farmers has been phenomenal and I personally really enjoy meeting the landowners each year that are all so genuinely so proud to have kites nesting on their land. I also want to thank all the volunteers who helped find the kite nests and during tagging."

Last modified on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 00:14