Red Kites

Red Kite photo courtsesy of Sian Douglass

We’ve named our sportive after these beautiful, enigmatic birds that grace our countryside. A common sight over London in William Shakespear’s time, red kites were tolerated because they kept streets clear of rotting carcases and rubbish. In later centuries they were looked on less favourably and were persecuted almost to the point of extinction.

By the mid 20th century there just a few pairs in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Thanks to a re-introduction programme in the late 80s, the Chilterns now has an established population of red kites that is rapidly expanding.

The red kite (latin name Milvus milvus) is a medium to large bird of prey from the same family as eagles, buzzards and harriers. They are 60 -70cms long with a wingspan of 175 – 179cms. The female is slightly larger than the male but other than that they look very similar.

Red Kite photo courtesy of Sian Douglass

The stand out features of the red kite are its long elegant wings and its deeply forked tail that twists as it soars. There is no other bird quite like it (the Black Kite is a rare visitor to the UK, and may get twitchers excited, but its not as dramatic as the red kite).

Red kites eat small creatures such as mice, voles, shrews, young hares and rabbits. It feeds on carrion, including road-kill, and will occasionally take reptiles and amphibians. Earthworms are also an important part of its diet – which is what our resident red kites are after when we see them poking about the cricket pitch!

These days, red kites are so numerous in the Chilterns that it would be extremely unusual not to see them if you are in the countryside. You will certain see plenty on the Red Kite Ride!