Even Sparrows... Bird watchers


Posted: 14.02.20 in Latest bird news category

The title of this local press release caught my eye. I have no idea whether Red Kites or any other kind of bird will be found in heaven, but I am sure the article was not intended to be speculative theology! Instead, it's simply the life history of one of the first Red Kites to be released here in North East England and contains some fascinating information about an iconic bird that you might find surprising:

Red Philip was born in the Chilterns in 2004 and was brought to North East England in that year as one of the first 20 red kite chicks which were tagged and released as part of the Northern Kites Project. He was named by a local primary school in Gateshead which adopted. In the Spring of 2005, Red Philip set up a first-year territory with a female, Flag, but they did not breed. The following year they built a nest and raised the first red kite chick in the region after an absence of 170 years. Flag and Red Philip bred again in 2007 & 2008 with 2 chicks successfully raised each year. In 2009, Red Philip and Flag refurbished their 2008 nest and hatched two chicks, but failed to fledge them.

In March 2010, Red Philip and Flag abandoned their old nest and Flag took up with another male called Thunderbird. The following year Red Philip found a new partner called “Swift” and they built a new nest together within his existing territory. They successfully fledged three chicks and two of these were tagged. Upon inspection their nest was found to contain the head of a soft toy seal as decoration! However, the following year Red Philip and Swift raised only one chick.

In March 2013, Red Philip appeared to be on his own. Swift had left him for an untagged male holding the adjacent territory. Red Philip tried to woo her back by visiting her whilst the male was away. Despite refurbishing his nest, and calling continuously, Red Philip failed to attract a mate during that year . In 2014, Red Philip attracted a new partner, a Yorkshire-born female called “Soar”, and built a nest in a new territory nearby where they successfully raised two chicks. In March 2015 Red Philip was injured in a road accident, the RSPCA were called and he was taken to their avian vet expert in Northumberland. Following a course of treatment and recuperation he was re-released back in to the wild on his territory, but his partner, Soar, deserted him. Throughout the remainder of 2015 Red Philip was seen on occasion near his territory. This continued in 2016 & 2017, but there was no evidence of a nest or chicks. He was still seen displaying in 2019 and built a nest, but he failed to attract a mate and the nest was unused. Then at the end of 2019 Red Philip was found injured and distressed. Vets examined him, diagnosed arthritis, concluded he would be unable to fly far without considerable pain and reluctantly decided to euthanise him.

Red Philip was one of the 94 red kites reintroduced in NE England between 2004-2006. During his life he had 3 partners (contrary to the theory that red kites pair for life) and fathered 11 chicks. Fifteen years after the first re-introduction, the red kites are faring well in their core North East area, but it seems persecution is preventing them from expanding their range with 7 red kites being been found poisoned or shot since 2010. A sad and pointless fate for a beautiful scavenging bird which poses little threat to pheasants or other game birds.

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