There have been no confirmed reports of red kites outside of Co. Wicklow in this three month period, although Kite “Black g” has been missing since the 1st October.
One 2008 bird, “Black P”, that had been missing during August & September was recorded in the release area on the 1st October. It’s whereabouts during the months it was missing are unknown. A number of 2007 birds that were known to have occupied territories outside of the core area since early 2008, were recorded a number of times at the communal roost.
On the 5th November a Northern Ireland kite was spotted in the Wicklow roost. The brown tag and yellow letter identified it as a bird released in Co. Down by the RSPB in 2008. The kite’s identity was confirmed by radio signal. At that time it was one of only two birds that were missing from the release area in Co. Down. The kite, “Brown V” is currently still in Wicklow and is regularly recorded at the roost.
By the end of December a minimum of twenty-four of the 2008 kites were still present in the release area. “Black b” had dropped his radio at this point and so its location is unknown. Twenty of the 2007 kites were recorded in the release area. These were primarily identified at the roost.
No supplementary feeding of the kites was carried out during this period. Pellets were collected from the roost but have yet to be analysed. From a quick inspection of the pellets, it is clear that the kites are feeding on some small mammals and some sheep carrion as evidenced by the amount of fur and occasional white pellet. Based on sightings of kites hunting and feeding, invertebrates are still an important part of the diet. Favoured hunting areas continue to be largely open areas, such as grassland, recently ploughed lands and stubble fields. Most hunting I’ve witnessed involves flying low over fields making occasional quick drops to the ground to snatch up small prey. Occasionally birds are seen foraging on the ground for extended periods.
During October and November two roosts were still regularly in use. One in farmland and the other in a forest plantation. The farmland roost allowed for good viewing of the kites as they flew in and when they initially perch up pre- roost. Both roosts contain a mix of 2007 and 2008 birds. Up to thirty birds were seen at the farm roost on two occasions.
During December the roosting pattern changed. The farmland roost moved a few hundred metres to the same trees that were used in early 2008. The number of birds using this roost began to drop and the forestry roost also fell out of use. In late December both of these roosts largely fell out of use. The favoured roost now is broadleaf woodland that was last used in December 2007. Unfortunately it is hard to view roosting birds from afar, so wing tag reading is quite difficult at this roost. As the roost is situated on a hillside, it does however offer excellent viewing of kites in the pre-roost flocking.
Results came in from the DNA sexing of the kites. It confirmed that the 2008 kites comprised 15 females and 11 males. On the basis of the biometrics of the kites we had previously assumed we had an even 13 of each sex.
No serious incidents recorded during this two month period. A radio tag and broken tail feather belonging to kite “Black b” were recovered. “Black b” hasn’t been recorded since dropping its tail feather but there is no reason to suspect there is anything wrong with the bird, unfortunately some of the tail feathers break off occasionally.
Update: Oct - Dec 2008