The red kite, predominantly European raptor

From Scandinavia to Spain, the distribution area of ​​the red kite is mainly in Europe. Close-up on an amateur raptor rodents but who does not disdain to eat some carrion.

Description of the red kite

Royal Kite (Milvus milvus) is a species of raptor from the family of Accipitridae. It is distinguished by its long, triangular red tail, deeply indented. Its whitish head finely streaked with black contrasts with the rest of its body. Wings tricolor is adorned with brown and red above while below, two large white fringes are also characteristic of the red kite. The bill is yellow and black and the iris yellow. The bird measures 59 to 66 cm, weighs between 800 g and 1.2 kg. As with most raptors, females are bigger than males.

Distribution area of ​​the red kite

The distribution of red kites is mainly european and its range extends from Spain to western Russia via France, Germany, Lithuania and Poland. If its population shows a decline in Iberia, it is in full expansion North. In Scandinavia, the bird shows a strong increase in the south of Sweden where it has settled down. The British Isles have recently become a stronghold of the species thanks to a well-conducted conservation program. The red kite is partial migrant. In the fall, birds from northern Europe move mainly to southern France and Spain and a few birds land as far as northern Morocco.

Red kite habitat

The red kite mainly frequents the agricultural areas open combining breeding and mixed farming, the arable land where it finds its food. The raptor also likes wetlands, surfaces grassy (pastures, meadows, plains) up to the hilltop and mountain levels but not beyond 1400 meters. Wooded landscapes and too dense do not correspond to its mode of hunting and feeding because it needs to fly over its area or to position itself to locate its preys. The raptor prefers small woods, clearings, edges, thickets and rows of trees adorning the countryside.

Diet of red kite

The red kite is a species opportunistic whose diet depends on local resources. Small mammals (voles, moles, field mice, mice) form the basis of its diet that the raptor locates from the sky. It hovers by making circles then performs a nose-down flight to grab them by surprise in his talons. It can also steal the prey of other birds (buzzards, herons…) or even loot a nest. The red kite also feeds on amphibians, reptiles, young passerines or corvids and invertebrates such as earthworms, terrestrial and aerial insects. The raptor is also scavenger : it eats the corpses of vertebrates victims of road traffic, the remains of cattle found near farms or animals killed by the mower during haymaking and that it will quickly find on mowed surfaces.

Behavior of the red kite

During the season of reproduction, in the presence of the laying or of juveniles, the red kite unceremoniously expels its congeners from its nesting area to ensure sufficient food for its offspring. When the mating season ends, this raptor solitary becomes sociable and sometimes groups around places where there is plenty of food. It is also very common to see red kites circling above garbage dumps. Raptors do not hesitate to gather in the evening to sleep together in dormitories up to a hundred individuals.

Reproduction of the red kite

The pairs that do not take over the nest from the previous year build a new one from an old corvid or raptor nest usually placed in the fork of a big tree. For this, they will use short dry branches and garnish the hollow with grass and materials gleaned here and there such as bits of plastic, rag and paper. The laying consists of 2 to 3 white eggs, dotted with red to brown spots. During the duration ofincubation – which goes from 30 to 32 days – the male supplies his partner then his young during the first fifteen days following hatching. The chicks stay in the nest for about 40 days, before flitting from branch to branch and then flying confidently. The family remains united until the young people take their independence, usually after 50 days.

Red kite population

In addition to threats natural which weigh heavily on the species (infant mortality, predation of young), the red kite runs many dangers. The decline observed in the XXe century to varying degrees depending on the region is mainly explained by the poisonings indirect when the raptor consumes rodents poisoned by pesticides. On the other hand, the bird often hunts along the road and sometimes collides with automobiles. The presence of power lines high voltage also causes frequent fatal electrocutions. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the red kite in category almost threatened and conservation measures taken in several countries are bearing fruit. The bird is a protected species in France. It is therefore forbidden to hunt it, capture it, mutilate it or destroy its nest, its eggs or its environment. Its lifespan is 22 to 26 years old wild.

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