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All About the Red Kite (Milvus Milvus)

August 1, 2022
a wedge of geese is a common collective nouns for birds
the face of a red kite bird

The magnificent Red Kite is a bird of prey that loss of habitat almost pushed to extinction in the UK. However, thanks to radical efforts to re-introduce them to England and Scotland, Red Kite numbers are in recovery, and there are currently 1800 breeding pairs residing in Britain[i]. If you want to learn more about the Red Kite, continue reading.

Quick Facts

  • Family – Accipitridae
  • Diet – Insects, small mammals, carrion
  • Habitat – woodlands, wetlands, valleys

Location – Europe, UK, Ireland[ii]

What Do Red Kites Look Like?

The Red Kite is relatively easy to spot due to its unique looks. You will know you are looking at a red kite if you see:

Feathers Reddish-brown and pale grey
Beak Hooked and yellow
Distinctive Marks Dark streaks across grey head
Eyes Amber with yellow ring
Tail Forked
Wings Reddish-brown with black tips


Here is a Red Kite from a few different angles

the view of a red kite from underneath

Underneath a Red Kite – you can see the deep fork in its tail and faint dark markings on its front.

the angled wings of a red kite

This image shows the Red Kite’s angled wings.

the side view of a red kite

Side-view of a Red Kite, showing off its hooked bill.

What Is The Average Red Kite Wingspan?

A red kite’s wingspan can range between 175 and 195cm[iii]. From beak to tail-tip, they usually reach a maximum of 66cm.

How Much Do They Weigh?

Red kites are medium-sized birds of prey, weighing in at 800 – 1300g grams.

What Does A Red Kite Sound Like?

Red Kites are usually only heard during their breeding season, but like any bird, they may squawk when in distress or fighting with another Red Kite.

On the ascent of their sound, you will hear a piercing whistle that holds for a few seconds. After this, the whistle descends into a ‘pluu’ sound. It is quite a distinctive, clear call and isn’t hard to miss by any means.

Listen to the Red Kite below


What Do Red Kites Eat?

Red Kites are scavenger birds of prey and aren’t the best hunters, so they will often pilfer what they can from already dead animals (known as carrion). People have also spotted them taking smaller mammals like rabbits, and other birds, like pigeons and crows. The red kite gets a lot of its nutrition from earthworms and insects.

When Is The Red Kite Nesting Season?

Red kites have numerous nesting territories across the Uk and Europe, with each territory containing a handful of nest sites. Their nesting season begins in March or April.

Once they’ve prepared their nest, red kite females will lay a clutch of 1 – 4 eggs, usually laying one every 3 days or so. Once the female has laid her eggs, she will incubate them for 31 – 38 days (the bigger the clutch, the longer the female will incubate them). After that, she will stay with the eggs almost permanently, relying on the male red kite to feed her regularly.

After the chicks hatch, the female red kite will stay with them whilst the male keeps up with feeding duties for one or two weeks. She can join in with foraging after this time as the baby red kites can feed themselves with food their parents leave for them in the nest. Babies tend to leave the nest fully (or fledge) after 50 – 70 days.

Where Can You Find Red Kites?

a flying red kite

Red kites inhabit several countries. They primarily live in the UK, Ireland, and many European countries.

You can usually find them in central Wales, central England, and central Scotland, and there are dedicated sites and trails that you can visit to get a better chance of catching a glimpse of them in their natural habitat.

Find out where you can go and see red kites here.

Keeping Garden Birds Safe From Red Kites

Although red kites are a beneficial and protected species, they may occasionally try to hunt smaller birds. If you live in a location with a high red kite population and want to prevent them from disturbing the birds in your garden, there are a few safe and non-invasive methods.

For example, you can give your garden birds somewhere to hide quickly if a predator bird appears. Place bird feeding stations within a short distance of shrubs and trees so they can dart into a hiding spot if needed. Don’t completely cover the feeders, though, or you won’t attract any birds.

You don’t really have much to worry about with red kites. They tend to stick to eating carrion and are much too weak-footed to catch prey larger than a rabbit, so they often won’t bother unless food is scarce. On the other hand, other birds of prey like sparrowhawks are the species you should keep an eye on.

Related: Sparrowhawks: Everything You Need to Know






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