On the face of it, Scotland’s red kite population appears to be doing well. Red kites used to be a common and widespread feature of our countryside, but became extinct in almost the entire United Kingdom in the early 1900s, after gamekeepers persecuted them to oblivion. A national reintroduction project began in 1989, bringing kites from mainland Europe and releasing them at strategic locations throughout the country.
Figures just released from the 2010 breeding season show that in Scotland, the numbers of breeding pairs are thought to be at their highest level since the project began in 1989. 166 breeding pairs were located, and 291 young fledged – an increase on 2009 figures.
However, recent scientific research has shown that the Scottish red kite population is not growing as rapidly as a similar reintroduced population in southern England, mainly due to the continued use of illegal posion being laid out in the Scottish countryside. As kites are a scavenging species, they are particularly susceptible to feeding from poisoned baits. At least 6 red kites were poisoned in Scotland in 2010 – and these were just the ones that were found. The illegal poisons Carbofuran and Aldicarb were responsible for their deaths. We also know about several more red kites that had been found dead in suspicious circumstances but that the police chose not to investigate. In addition to the illegal poisoned baits, 11 young kites died after eating prey that contained high concentrations of legal rodenticide. Although legal, there are still precautions needed when using rodenticides and efforts are being made to ensure that those people using this method of poison are fully aware of the user guidelines, especially about placement of the bait.
In addition to illegal and legal poisoning, in recent years Scottish red kites have also been killed illegally by being shot, and by being caught by the legs on a spring trap and being clubbed to death.
BBC News story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-12088673