Chicks a feather in nest for bird of prey plan

Tue, Aug 28, 2012, 01:00

AN IRISH-BORN red kite has nested and bred chicks in Ireland for the first time in nearly 200 years.

The male bird, which was born in 2010 to donor stocks of red kites brought in from Wales, was recorded breeding at a nest on a farm near Redcross, Co Wicklow, earlier this summer. The event marks a major milestone for Co Wicklow’s red kite reintroduction programme which aims to restore Ireland’s native population of kites to their traditional haunts.

The breeding bird, tagged as Blue Blue 7, successfully bred two chicks with an older female bird which was released along with the original batch of imported birds when the project was established in 2007.

His tags, identifying him as a native-bred bird, were first spotted by a member of the public through a web-camera fitted to the bird’s nest. The pair’s fully fledged chicks have been flying free from the nest and taught to hunt by the adults since July.

As part of the three national bird of prey reintroduction programmes in Ireland, red kites, golden eagles and white-tailed eagles have been bred in Ireland in recent years. However, all of these birds have hatched in their respective donor countries (Wales, Scotland and Norway) before being collected and brought to Ireland.

“This is the first time a wholly native red kite has been recorded as breeding in Ireland since the early 19th century,” said project manager Dr Marc Ruddock.

He paid tribute to the role of the farming community in the success of the project. “The level of co-operation and support from the local community and farmers has been phenomenal.”

The red kite is now a familiar sight around Wicklow farms and villages as a result of the success of the programme, which is funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

In its annual report for 2012, the Co Wicklow project said it located 24 pairs of red kites during this year’s breeding season, either defending territories or showing signs of breeding activity, with 17 of these pairs confirmed as having laid eggs. However, this year’s season was severely hampered by poor weather in March, April and May with at least six nests destroyed due to strong winds and heavy rain. A total of 11 successful nests are known to have produced 23 young kites during the season. This included three broods of three chicks, which Dr Ruddock said, indicated the suitability of the kite territories.

Welcoming the news, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said: “I have been following the progress of this project with keen interest since I took office and I am delighted that we now have a second generation of kites in Ireland.”

In total, 52 wild-bred chicks have fledged in Wicklow since 2010. Of the 120 birds released in the area since 2007, nine have been killed through the illegal use of poisons and one has been shot, with a further 15-20 unaccounted for. A further nine from the 40 released in Fingal, Co Dublin in 2011 were also killed after consuming poisoned rodents. A further 80 red kites were released in Co Down between 2008 and 2010.