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Red kite soaring

Watching Red Kites in Wales

Watching red kites feeding in Wales is something many of our visitors look forward to. Some people choose to visit kite feeding stations but here at Strawberry Skys, you can sit back and watch these beautiful soaring birds from the comfort of your own glamping yurt. Since we moved to Wales 15 years ago, we’re thrilled to say our population of red kites has grown. We love to see them looking so relaxed and at ease on the wing as they patrol above our glamping fields.

Red kite population in the UK

The story of red kites in the UK hasn’t always been a happy one. Persecution led to the species becoming extinct in England and Scotland in the 19th Century with just a few pairs surviving in the lonely upland valleys of Mid Wales. Because of illegal egg collection and land control treatments, the population continued to struggle but happily a slow recovery program has been successful and there are now more than 10,000 red kites across the UK, with Wales being home to about 2,500 breeding pairs (2019).

How to recognise a red kite

Once you’ve watched red kites for a while, you’ll understand how they got their name. Their soaring flight with less flapping than some other raptors (birds of prey) is one way you can spot them. High above our fields, the red kites look small but if you’re lucky enough to spot one closer up, you’ll see they have a wingspan of almost two metres. Nearer in, you’ll also be able to see their lovely red plumage but one of the easiest ways to identify a red kite in flight is by its forked tail.

What do red kites eat?

Soaring high above our fields, the red kites look like they’re having fun, but they are actually looking for food. Although they do sometimes catch small mice, voles and birds, their main diet consists of worms and meat that is already dead, including roadkill. It is this tendency to feed on dead animals that used to make farmers suspicious of them.

Where do red kites nest?

Red kites prefer to build their nests in traditional deciduous woodland, but they also need plenty of access to open spaces in which they can search for food. They can travel a long way and are sometimes rather surprisingly found in towns as well as the countryside. With our lovely, wooded valleys and high upland areas, it’s easy to see why Mid Wales has become such a red kite stronghold.

Five interesting facts about red kites

We are becoming more used to seeing red kites in our skies but there’s still plenty to learn about these beautiful creatures. Here are five things you might not know about red kites.

  1. Red kites like to sleep together in groups
  2. They sometimes line their nests with sheep’s wool
  3. It’s possible all the red kites in the UK came from one female bird
  4. The Scottish city of Aberdeen has a growing population of red kites
  5. The oldest recorded red kite was 26 years old

Black-winged kite spotted in Mid Wales

Once you get into watching our red kites, you won’t want to stop. And who knows, if you keep your eyes open, you might just catch a glimpse of a rare UK visitor, the black-winged kite. The first black-winged kite to be spotted in the UK was recently sighted just a few miles from our glamping fields so we’re all hoping it pays us a visit here at Strawberry Skys.

How to recognise a black-winged kite

The black-winged kite (Elanus caeruleus) is not the same bird as the black kite (Milvus migrans), which looks similar to its more often seen cousin the red kite (Milvus milvus). Perhaps the most obvious thing about the black-winged kite is the contrast between its white body and face and the black shoulders that give it its name. Looking closer you might also spot this bird’s unusual red eyes, black eye stripe and soft gray wing feathers. Unlike a red kite, the black-winged kite’s tail isn’t forked, and it tends to hover more than a red kite.

Black-winged kite population

Although this was the first black-winged kite to be spotted in the UK these birds can be seen relatively easily in Spain and Portugal. Coming originally from open or desert land in Africa and Asia, black-winged kites are not migratory but will settle in new areas if the conditions are right. In 2015, it was estimated that there were around 1,100 – 2,600 pairs of black-winged kites in Europe.

Five interesting facts about black-winged kites

  • Black-winged kites look a bit like owls because their eyes face forward
  • They weigh the same as about one cup of butter
  • They have bright yellow feet and legs
  • They are not considered to be under threat
  • They like to build their nests at the top of trees

How to spot kites in Wales

Mid Wales is one of the places in the UK you’re most likely to spot red kites (and hopefully a black-winged kite). Because they are a resident species, you can see red kites here all year round and we have plenty for you to spot from the comfort of your glamping site at Strawberry Skys Yurts. Pick a warm, sunny day to see them soaring on the thermals above our fields. We recommend a comfortable camp chair, a mug of tea and a pair of binoculars. Look out for the red kites’ distinctive reddish feathers and forked tails but don’t forget, if you spot a white, grey and black bird behaving a bit like the red kites, you might be the next person to spot a rare black-winged kite in the UK.

Happy twitching!

Book your perfect bird-watching break today

At Strawberry Skys yurts in Mid Wales, we’ve put the focus firmly on space and relaxation. With just four cosy yurts, spaced generously around our main field, our glamping site is the perfect place for happy, comfortable bird spotting. Get in touch today to find out more.

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