WITH regard to your story headlined “Feathers ruffled over birds of prey allegations” (The Galloway Gazette, September 14), I have just returned from holiday in Auvergne, France, from a countryside with farmland birds, woodland birds and a variety of raptors, which were numerous and very obvious in the skies, including both red and black kites.
No-one batted an eyelid at them, except perhaps to enjoy the spectacle – as we did. The difference is that in Auvergne people have grown up with birds of prey; they’ve always been there, a natural part of the scene and pose no threat. This is not the case in much of the UK – I was 14 before I saw a buzzard, and kites, sea eagles, ospreys and goshawks were persecuted to extinction.
By their nature, raptors kill and eat prey, and the RSPB has never denied this. We have also never denied that kites can and do kill small prey, especially when they are feeding their young, but they are largely carrion feeders. This is widely established and recognised throughout their range, not just by the RSPB, but in a wealth of scientific studies and literature. Live prey is limited to invertebrates and other small creatures, including nestlings or recently fledged young birds – nestling crows are particularly favoured – but kites are most unlikely to be a threat to them at population level through predation.
Kites are the weakest and least aggressive of our raptors and are not a serious threat to buzzards or peregrines, which vigorously defend their chicks. Neither are they a significant threat to pheasant poults, although this year they have benefited from the carrion of many dead poults and other young birds that have perished in the awful weather. We released kites in Galloway with the direct help of three shooting estates, and have since had the support of many more, including a significant number of gamekeepers who know kites are no threat to their interests. This replicates what has happened in other release sites in Scotland, England and Ireland. So far as I am aware, there has been no issue with kites killing pheasant poults in over 20 years, and in central Scotland both were released from adjacent pens in the same wood with no problem. Kites have brought a economic income to the area through the Galloway Kite Trail.
RSPB Scotland Area Manager,
Dumfries and Galloway.