Il niche dans les bosquets d’arbres élevés ou dans le bocage mais s’alimente surtout en terrain découvert, cherchant ses proies dans la végétation basse. Il les détecte par des planés hauts ou des vols actifs bas à la manière des busards. Dans certaines localités, il a gardé son comportement urbain de charognard, mais en général, il habite maintenant dans des secteurs reculés et préservés des perturbations humaines.
Le Milan royal se nourrit de toutes sortes d’animaux vivants ou morts. La plupart des proies sont capturées par surprise mais il arrive qu’il poursuive en vol un insecte ou un oiseau. Il peut aussi dérober la proie d’autres oiseaux (Buse, Balbuzard, Héron, Corvidés…) ou encore piller un nid.
Moins grégaire que le Milan noir, il chasse surtout en solitaire. Il peut se regrouper en dortoirs importants (parfois plus de 100 oiseaux, toujours dans des arbres) mais s’observe isolément ou en petits groupes en journée, y compris en migration. Les aires sont très dispersées et généralement à plus de 1 km les unes des autres. Elles sont occupées à partir de février-mars, voire dès janvier pour les sédentaires. Les territoires des couples se chevauchent sans que des conflits soient remarqués. En présence de la ponte ou de jeunes oiseaux, le mâle défend les abords de l’aire contre ses congénères et tout autre prédateur potentiel. Il passe la nuit à proximité de la nichée, de même que la femelle lorsque les jeunes sont suffisamment grands.
L’unique ponte de 1 à 3 œufs est déposée en mars ou avril, selon la latitude. L’aire est placée à la fourche d’une branche et peut être réutilisée d’une année sur l’autre. C’est assez souvent un ancien nid de Grand Corbeau ou de Buse. Des herbes et de la laine de mouton sont ajoutées à la coupe de branchettes, parfois aussi des papiers et plastiques. La date d’envol des jeunes dépend de leur nombre et de la nourriture disponible. Les plus précoces se déplacent vers des branches attenantes à l’aire dès l’âge de 45 jours, mais s’envolent rarement avant le 50e jour. Certains ne décollent qu’au 70e jour.
Milvus milvus is endemic to the western Palearctic region in Europe and northwest Africa. Formerly, these birds of prey also occurred in northern Iran. They are rare kites that are resident in western Europe and northwest Africa. Red kites from northeastern and central Europe migrate further south and west, reaching south to Turkey for the winter season. Vagrant birds have been recorded as far north as Finland and south in Israel and Libya.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
Red kites are brownish-chestnut in color with a mix of orange/buff and darker brown or black streaking. The main wing feathers (secondaries and primaries) are dark brown, which contrast with white patches under the wings. They have pale grey heads which are streaked with black. The bright yellow legs and feet can often be seen in flight. They have hooked beaks which are very sharp and designed for tearing meat. Females are generally larger ranging from 1000 to 1300 g in weight, males are 800 to 1200 g. Their wingspan ranges from 175 to 195 cm and body length from 60 to 66 cm.
Range mass: 800 to 1300 g.
Range length: 60 to 66 cm.
Range wingspan: 175 to 195 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Red kites are a wide-ranging species with a wide habitat tolerance. Their only requirements are large, mature trees in which to build nests. Generally these nests are built 10 to 15 m above ground. Sometimes red kites take over an old crow or buzzard nest. Red kites can be very protective of their nesting area, but are not highly territorial of their entire breeding territory. Most red kites nest within 20 km of where they were reared.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian
Habitat and Ecology
Red kites are primarily scavengers, but they are also predators, especially during the breeding season when they must feed their young. They eat a wide variety of live prey, primarily small mammals such as rabbits, voles, and field mice, but also including birds, worms, and invertebrate prey. Red kites glide lower than their usual soaring height to hunt live prey, visually searching for movements on the ground. They then dive quickly and grab prey in their talons.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; fish; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Scavenger )
Red kites are important predators and scavengers in the ecosystems they inhabit. Parasites found on these birds include: an acanthocephalan (Centrorhynchus milvus) and a trematode (Phagicola ascolonga).
- acanthocephalan (Centrorhynchus milvus)
- trematode (Phagicola ascolonga)
Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) are the only known natural predators of adult red kites. The main threat is from human activity. Red kites have been targeted by egg thieves and illegal use of poisoned baits in carcasses, even though they are not set specifically for red kites. Nestlings and eggs are also vulnerable to nest predators, although both parents actively defend the nest. At signs of predators females signal to her fledglings who "play dead," even to the extent that a fox will believe them to be dead and leave, thinking it can return to eat them later.
- northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis)
- humans (Homo sapiens)
- red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Red kites, like other carrion birds, feed on widely dispersed food sources, so they may communicate at roost sites. Individuals tend to find food for themselves or by following another.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Captive red kites are known to have lived 26 years in captivity. Wild records are unavailable, but related Milvus migrans have been recorded living up to 24 years in the wild.
Status: captivity: 26 (high) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Red kites are monogamous and pair-bond for life, usually staying with each other year-round. Courtship each year renews the bond the pair already have. Mated pairs are more successful in reproduction with experience.
Courtship begins for established pairs in March. The birds play courtship games, such as flying towards each other and then turning and twisting away from each other at the last moment. They also have mock talon grappling fights, spinning in mid air, spiraling toward the ground, parting at tree level. Occasionally pairs courting this way fail to release each other in time and die.
Mating System: monogamous
Red kites reach maturity between 2 and 4 years of age. These birds normally pair for life, although, in winter they may spend time apart or in communal roosts. Winter is the best time for viewing kites because it minimizes disturbance to breeding kites. They are notorious for being easily disturbed at the nest.
One to three eggs are normally laid in April, produced at 3 day intervals. This ensures that there will be a dominant chick who will likely outlive his siblings. Incubation time is 31 to 32 days with an extra 3 days per additional egg.
Fledging can take 7 to 9 weeks, depending on food availability. At around 6 weeks the chicks will move away from the nest to exercise their wings. Even after their first flight, young do not move far from their nests as parents continue to feed them around the nest for several weeks. Young attain adult plumage at around 1 year and will breed at about 3 years.
Breeding interval: Red kites breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Nest-building usually begins during March, but first-time breeders may not start until April. Eggs are usually laid in early April.
Range eggs per season: 1 to 3.
Range time to hatching: 31 to 35 days.
Range fledging age: 7 to 9 weeks.
Average time to independence: 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous
Both parents assist in nest-building, usually in hardwood trees. Red kites are protective of the nest area, but not of the entire breeding territory. The female carries out the majority of incubation with relief from the male for several 20-minute breaks during the day for feeding and exercise. The parents stay alert for nest predators, such as crows and ravens. When the chicks hatch, the male bird brings food to the nest for the female to tear into small pieces to feed them. Parents will continue to feed the young a few weeks past the fledgling stage.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Milvus milvus
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Milvus milvus
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
Red kites are directly persecuted by poachers, forestry workers, tourists, and others. Habitat destruction, shortage of food, over-use of pesticides and other chemicals, over-exploitation, collisions, and petroleum and oil pollution are all indirect threats to Milvus milvus. They are considered near-threatened by the IUCN. Populations are in decline in areas that were previously considered strongholds of this species, including Germany, Spain, and France.
US Migratory Bird Act: no special status
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2012Near Threatened
Status in Egypt
Regular passage visitor.
The species is on Annex I of the EU Birds Directive is the the focus of close monitoring and targeted conservation actions across most of its range, including reintroduction to parts of the U.K. since 1989(English Nature 1995; RSPB 2007). Since 2007, further reintroduction projects are aiming to re-establish Red Kites in Tuscany and in the Marche (Italy), the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - the first breeding attempt in the Republic was recorded in 2009. An EU species action plan for the Red Kite was published in 2009 (Knott et al. 2009). National species action plans are in place in Germany, France, the Balearic Islands and Denmark, and a draft national action plan is in place in Portugal. Ongoing research in Germany aims to examine further the impact of windfarms on the red kite breeding population in this country. In 2007, for the first time, three young birds in France were fitted with satellite transmitters, although only one provided regular information(Mionnet 2007). In Spain, radio-tracking was carried out in Segovia in 2006-2007.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor population trends and breeding productivity. Continue to manage reintroduction projects. Regulate the use of pesticides, especially in France and Spain. Reduce persecution through law enforcement, prosecutions and awareness campaigns. Carry out further studies into the impact of changing land-use practices. Lobby for changes in EU and national agricultural policies. Increase the area of suitable woodland and forest with protected status. Work with land-owners to protect habitat and prevent persecution. Consider extending supplementary feeding to more areas of low food availability. Ensure national legislation on animal by-products takes into account the needs of scavengers. Promote control on feeding stations to be compliant with sanitary regulations.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no known adverse effects of Milvus milvus on humans.
Red kites prey on rabbits and other rodents that act as agricultural pests. They also help by removing dead carcasses that could spread disease.
Positive Impacts: controls pest population
The red kite (Milvus milvus) is a medium-large bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as eagles, buzzards, and harriers. The species is currently endemic to the Western Palearctic region in Europe and northwest Africa, though formerly also occurred just outside in northern Iran. It is resident in the milder parts of its range in western Europe and northwest Africa, but birds from northeastern and central Europe winter further south and west, reaching south to Turkey. Vagrants have reached north to Finland and south to Israel, Libya and Gambia.
The red kite has been known to successfully hybridize with the black kite in captivity where both species were kept together, and in the wild on the Cape Verde Islands and infrequently in other places. The red kites on the Cape Verde Islands are (or rather were) quite distinct in morphology, being somewhat intermediate with black kites. The question whether the Cape Verde kite should be considered a distinct species (Milvus fasciicauda) or a red kite subspecies has not been settled. A recent mtDNA study on museum specimens suggests that Cape Verde birds did not form a monophyletic lineage among or next to red kites.
This interpretation is problematic: mtDNA analysis is susceptible to hybridization events, the evolutionary history of the Cape Verde population is not known, and the genetic relationship of red kites is confusing, with geographical proximity being no indicator of genetic relatedness and the overall genetic similarity high, perhaps indicating a relict species.
Given the morphological distinctness of the Cape Verde birds and that the Cape Verde population was isolated from other populations of red kites, it cannot be conclusively resolved as to whether the Cape Verde population was not a distinct subspecies (as M. migrans fasciicauda) or even species that frequently absorbed stragglers from the migrating European populations into its gene pool. More research seems warranted, but at any rate the Cape Verde population is effectively extinct since 2000, all surviving birds being hybrids with black kites (which merely raises further questions about their taxonomic status).
Red kites are 60 to 70 cm (24 to 28 in) long with a 175–179 cm (69–70 in) wingspan; males weigh 800–1,200 g (28–42 oz), and females 1,000–1,300 g (35–46 oz). It is an elegant bird, soaring on long wings held at a dihedral, and long forked tail, twisting as it changes direction. The body, upper tail and wing coverts are rufous. The white primary flight feathers contrast with the black wing tips and dark secondaries. Apart from the weight difference, the sexes are similar, but juveniles have a buff breast and belly. Its call is a thin piping sound, similar to but less mewling than the common buzzard. There is a rare white leucistic form accounting for approximately 1% of hatchlings in the Welsh population but is at a disadvantage in the survival stakes.
Differences between adults and juveniles
Adults differ from juveniles in a number of characteristics:
- Adults are overall more deeply rufous, compared with the more washed out colour of juveniles;
- Adults have black breast-streaks whereas on juveniles these are pale;
- Juveniles have a less deeply forked tail, with a dark subterminal band;
- Juveniles have pale tips to all of the greater-coverts (secondary and primary) on both the upper- and under-wings, forming a long narrow pale line; adults have pale fringes to upperwing secondary-coverts only.
These differences hold throughout most of the first year of a bird's life.
The red kite's diet consists mainly of small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, young hares and rabbits. It feeds on a wide variety of carrion including sheep carcasses and dead game birds. Live birds are also taken and occasionally reptiles and amphibians. Earthworms form an important part of the diet, especially in spring.
As scavengers, red kites are particularly susceptible to poisoning. Illegal poison baits set for foxes or crows are indiscriminate and kill protected birds and other animals. There have also been a number of incidents of red kites and other raptors being targeted by wildlife criminals.
Although adult red kites are sedentary birds, occupying their breeding home range all year in most cases, populations from Central and Northern Europe—although not the United Kingdom—may migrate south to areas such as Spain and the Iberian peninsula during colder winters. Each nesting territory can contain up to five nest sites. Both male and female birds build the nest on a main fork or a limb high in a tree, 12–20 m (39–66 ft) above the ground. The nest is made of twigs and lined with grass or other vegetation and sheep’s wool. At signs of danger, a mother will signal the young who will "play dead" when a predator is near.
Distribution and status
Red kites inhabit broadleaf woodlands, valleys and wetland edges, to 800 metres (2,600 ft). They are endemic to the western Palearctic, with the European population of 19,000–25,000 pairs encompassing 95% of its global breeding range. It breeds from Spain and Portugal east into central Europe and Ukraine, north to southern Sweden, Latvia and the UK, and south to southern Italy. There is a population in northern Morocco. Northern birds move south in winter, mostly staying in the west of the breeding range, but also to eastern Turkey, northern Tunisia and Algeria. The three largest populations (in Germany, France and Spain, which together hold more than 75% of the global population) declined between 1990 and 2000, and overall the species declined by almost 20% over the ten years. The main threats to red kites are poisoning, through illegal direct poisoning and indirect poisoning from pesticides, particularly in the wintering ranges in France and Spain, and changes in agricultural practices causing a reduction in food resources. Other threats include electrocution, hunting and trapping, deforestation, egg-collection (on a local scale) and possibly competition with the generally more successful black kite M. migrans.
German populations declined by 25%–30% between 1991 and 1997, but have remained stable since. The populations of the northern foothills of the Harz Mountains (the most densely populated part of its range) suffered an estimated 50% decline from 1991 to 2001. In Spain, the species showed an overall decline in breeding population of up to 43% for the period 1994 to 2001–02, and surveys of wintering birds in 2003–04 suggest a similarly large decline in core wintering areas. The Balearic Islands population has declined from 41–47 breeding pairs in 1993 to just 10 in 2003. In France, breeding populations have decreased in the northeast, but seem to be stable in southwest and central France and Corsica. Populations elsewhere are stable or undergoing increases. In Sweden, the species has increased from 30–50 pairs in the 1970s to 1,200 breeding pairs in 2003. In Switzerland, populations increased during the 1990s, and have stabilised. According to a report by the Welsh Kite Trust, the UK is the only country in which the red kite population is increasing. Red kites are decreasing in their strongholds of Spain, France and Germany.
In the United Kingdom, red kites were ubiquitous scavengers that lived on carrion and rubbish. Shakespeare's King Lear describes his daughter Goneril as a detested kite, and he wrote "when the kite builds, look to your lesser linen" in reference to them stealing washing hung out to dry in the nesting season. In the mid-15th century, King James II of Scotland decreed that they should be "killed wherever possible", but they remained protected in England and Wales for the next 100 years as they kept the streets free of carrion and rotting food. Under Tudor "vermin laws" many creatures were seen as competitors for the produce of the countryside and bounties were paid by the parish for their carcasses.
By the 20th century, the breeding population was restricted to a handful of pairs in South Wales, but recently the Welsh population has been supplemented by re-introductions in England and Scotland. In 2004, from 375 occupied territories identified, at least 216 pairs were thought to have hatched eggs and 200 pairs reared at least 286 young. In 1989, six Swedish birds were released at a site in north Scotland and four Swedish and a Welsh bird in Buckinghamshire. Altogether, 93 birds of Swedish and Spanish origin were released at each of the sites. In the second stage of reintroduction in 1995 and 1996, further birds were brought from Germany to populate areas of Dumfries and Galloway. Ninety-four birds were brought from the Chilterns and introduced into the Derwent Valley in North East England between 2004 and 2006. In Northern Ireland, 80 birds from wild stock in Wales were released over three years between 2008 and 2010, and in 2010 the first successful breeding was recorded. The reintroductions in the Chilterns have been a success. Between 1989 and 1993, 90 birds were released in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and by 2002, 139 pairs were breeding there. They can commonly be seen taking advantage of thermals from the M40 motorway. Another successful reintroduction has been in Northamptonshire, which has become a stronghold for the red kite. Thirty Spanish birds were introduced into Rockingham Forest near Corby in 2000, and by 2010, the RSPB estimated that over 200 chicks had been reared from the initial release. So successful has the reintroduction been that 30 chicks have been transported from Rockingham Forest, for release in Cumbria.
A sighting of the first red kite in London for 150 years was reported in The Independent newspaper in January 2006 and in June of that year, the UK-based Northern Kites Project reported that kites had bred in the Derwent Valley in and around Rowlands Gill, Tyne and Wear for the first time since the re-introduction.
In June 2010, the Forestry Commission North West England announced a three-year project to release 90 red kites in Grizedale Forest, Cumbria under a special licence issued by Natural England. The Grizedale programme will be the ninth reintroduction of red kites into different regions of the UK, and the final re-introduction phase in England.
The stated aims of the Grizedale project are:
- To establish a viable population of red kites in Grizedale, South Cumbria by 2015.
- To increase the rate of red kite expansion into North West England and link up with existing populations in Wales, Yorkshire, North East England and South West Scotland and so increase the chances of a continuous geographical range.
- To develop community involvement and create educational opportunities arising from the project.
As of July 2011, non-breeding birds are regularly seen in all parts of Britain, and the number of breeding pairs is too large for the RSPB to continue to survey them on an annual basis.
Red kites were extinct in Ireland by the middle nineteenth century, due to persecution, poisoning and woodland clearance. In May 2007, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Dick Roche announced an agreement to bring at least 100 birds from Wales to restock the population as part of a 5-year programme in the Wicklow Mountains, similar to the earlier golden eagle reintroduction programme. On 19 July 2007, the first thirty red kites were released in County Wicklow. On 22 May 2010, 2 newly hatched red kite chicks were discovered in the Wicklow mountains, bringing the number of chicks hatched since reintroduction to 7.
The red kite is the landscape bird of Scania, Sweden and the coat of arms of the municipality of Tomelilla. Sweden is one location where the red kite seems to be in progress with around 2000 pairs in 2009, some of which are overwintering and some flying south to the Mediterranean landscapes for the winter. They return around March–April. The kite is often seen roaming the open colourful patchwork quilt of wheat and rapeseed fields of Scania and if you go for a drive in the spring or summertime you are almost inevitably going to run into a number of them along the roadsides. Just north of Ystad you can even experience the kites flying along with golden eagles.
Populations and trends by country
|Algeria||0||Unknown||Bred in the 19th century, now extinct|
|Austria||2000||0–2||Extinct 1950, recolonised 1970s; 10 pairs 1990|
|Belarus||1997||1||Unknown||Extinct 1950s, recolonised 1985; 10 pairs 1990|
|Belgium||c.1995||50–60||Declined to 1–3 pairs early 1970s, then recovery|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0||Unknown|
|Bulgaria||0||Unknown||May breed but no proof|
|Canary Islands||0||Extinct 1970s|
|Cape Verde||2000||1?||50–75 pairs late 1980s; effectively extinct|
|Croatia||0||Unknown||2–5 pairs 1980s|
|Czech Republic||2013||165-185||Extinct late 19th century, recolonised 1975|
|Denmark||2009||75–80||Extinct c.1920, then recolonised (from Sweden) 1970s|
|England||2011||c.2000||Extinct 1870s, reintroduced 1989–1992|
|France||late 2000s||c.3000||2300–2900 pairs 1980s|
|Germany||late 2000s||c.12000||15000–25000 pairs 1980s|
|Hungary||c.1998||1+||30 pairs 1950s|
|Ireland||2010||7||First successful breeding reported in 2010 following reintroduction in 2007|
|Italy||c.2002||300–400||Unknown||70–150 pairs late 1980s|
|Latvia||1992||0–50||Extinct 1964, then recolonised|
|Lithuania||1988||1–2||Extinct, then recolonised 1981|
|Morocco||c.1992||10–100||In danger of extinction|
|Netherlands||c.1998||<5||Extinct 1852, recolonised 1976|
|Northern Ireland||2010||5||First successful breeding reported in 2010 following reintroduction in 2008|
|Norway||1980||0||Bred occasionally in the 19th century|
|Poland||c.1998||650–700||400–450 pairs 1980s|
|Scotland||2009||135||Extinct 1886, reintroduced 1989–1992|
|Spain||late 2000s||c.2200||10000 pairs 1977|
|Sweden||late 2000s||c.1800||Increase from 400 pairs in 1993|
|Switzerland||c.1995||800–1000||Declined 19th century, later recovery; 235–300 pairs late 1980s|
|Tunisia||0||Unknown||Bred in the 19th century, now extinct|
|Turkey||0||Unknown||May have bred in past but no proof|
|Wales||2009||c.1000||Declined to 2 pairs in the 1930s, then recovery|
|Yugoslavia||0||Unknown||Formerly more common|
Some of the best places to see them in the UK are Gigrin Farm near Rhayader, mid Wales, where hundreds are fed by the local farmer as a tourist attraction, and the nearby Nant-Yr-Arian forest recreation centre in Ceredigion where the rare leucistic variant can be seen. In the UK, the Oxfordshire part of the Chilterns has many red kites, especially near Henley-on-Thames and Watlington, where they were introduced on John Paul Getty's estate. They can also be seen around Harewood near Leeds where they were re-introduced in 1999.
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F. cera flava, cauda forsicata, corpore ferrugineo, capite albidiore..
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In Didcot, poisoned rabbits were laid out as bait disguised as road-kill, targeting red kites
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- Hogan, C. Michael (2005): Kullaberg Nature Reserve, Sweden. Lumina technologies.
- "Red Kite Feeding Station — Gigrin Farm". Retrieved 27 October 2006.
- "Bwlch Nant-yr-Arian". Bwlch Nant Yr Arian Visitor Centre. 2008. Archived from the original on 2 August 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
- Melton, Tom (13 August 2008). "Leucistic Red Kite". ephotozone. ephotozone. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
- "Birder watchers' paradise". BBC Hands on Nature. BBC. pp. Parks: Harewood Estate. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
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