Red Kite chicks have been discovered in a nest in Wicklow, the first known to have hatched in Ireland in well over two hundred years. The initial discovery was made a number of weeks ago during routine nest monitoring. The two small chicks were seen in a nest heavily lined with old rags, a habit of kites well known to our Irish ancestors. Préachán Ceirteach, the "Cloth Kite", has truly returned.
The project to restore the beautiful Red Kite to Ireland was initiated in 2007. The Red Kite, which was once common and widespread in these islands, became extinct in Ireland in the eighteenth century due to persecution, poisoning and woodland clearance. This international, co-operative project is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Welsh Kite Trust. To date a total of 81 Red Kites have been imported from Wales and released in Co. Wicklow. A similar project managed by the RSPB in Northern Ireland began in 2008, they have currently released 53 birds.
Wicklow has proven to be an excellent area for the imported Welsh Kites. Survival rates have been very high, proving the suitability of the area for Kites. While most of the released birds have taken up permanent residence in the County a number of the more adventurous birds have been spotted further a field. Kites from Wicklow have been sighted in Kerry, Leitrim, Dublin, Sligo and Antrim. Currently there is an estimated 50+ birds still resident in Co. Wicklow, including a number of birds that were released in Northern Ireland and subsequently found their way to Wicklow.
First breeding was recorded in 2009 when two pairs were known to have built nests and laid eggs. Unfortunately neither of these pairs produced any young. This season nine breeding attempts have been located so far and chicks have now been confirmed in two nests. It is hoped that these chicks will successfully fledge in the coming weeks. Further releases of chicks imported from Wales will continue this year. 2010 should see the release of another 26 Welsh Red Kites.
Golden Eagle Trust Red Kite project manager Damian Clarke said "The discovery of the first Red Kite chicks in over two hundred years was a significant milestone for Irish biodiversity. To see chicks in a typical Wicklow landscape reaffirms my belief that these birds will thrive here once given the chance. It is my hope that the Red Kite will with time once again be a common sight throughout Ireland. These Irish bred chicks are the first sign of that becoming a reality."