Croeso Network

Gigrin Farm Red Kite Centre in Rhayader Powys

The Red Kite 

An especially good hunting ground for the red kite, and a host of other predators, is the land between the cultivated valley bottom and lower slopes and the open hill top. There is often bracken, gorse and heather sheltering great numbers of rabbits, voles, moles and field-mice.

Red Kites reach sexual maturity between 2-4 years of age. They normally pair for life and although in winter they may spend some time apart or in communal roosts, by February (or January if the weather is good) they will be found visiting the nesting area together. For established pairs, courtship and nest-building usually start in earnest during March, about 2 - 4 weeks before the first egg is laid, but first-time breeders may not start until April

The pair will fly together in high circling displays and these will intensify through March.

Both birds assist in the building of the nest which is built of sticks collected from the ground. Sometimes an old crows or buzzards nest will be taken over and renovated but whether new or second hand in Wales the nest lining will always be of sheep's wool. Welsh red kites nests are built exclusively in trees - mostly in hardwoods, such as oaks. Nests are usually built at a height of between 4 and 30 metres above the ground, and are usually fairly flat, untidy structures of sticks 2 to 3 feet in width.

The eggs are normally laid in early April with 1-3 being the usual range. They are produced at 3 day intervals ensuring that there will always be a dominant chick who will be likely to outlive his siblings and hopefully survive himself if food is scarce. Incubation takes 31-32 days with an extra 3 days per extra egg if more than one. Incubation of the eggs takes 31-32 days with an extra 3 days per extra egg if more than one.

The eggs of the Red Kite have been targeted by thieves - collectors will risk very heavy fines (over £1,000) to obtain them. This selfish activity is part of the reason why it took so long for the population to re-establish itself and start expanding again in Wales.

The female carries out the majority of the incubation with relief from the male in the form of several 20 minute breaks during the day for feeding and exercise. The parent birds must stay alert to protect the eggs from potential nest robbers such as carrion crows and ravens.

It is at this time that the kite is most prone to desertion if disturbed in any way.

When the chicks hatch the male bird brings food to the nest for the female to tear into small scraps with which to feed them. An adult Red Kite needs food equivalent to a small rabbit each day and a young growing chick has the same requirement. Food shortage is the main reason why so many chicks fail to fledge.

Fledging can take from 7 to 9 weeks depending on the food availability but by about 6 weeks of age the chicks are seen to move away from the nest to exercise their wings, building up their flight muscles in preparation for the big day.

Gigrin Farm,

Rhayader, Powys, LD6 5BL

Telephone:- +44 1597 810243  Fax:- +44 1597 810357



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