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Red Kite Reintroduction Project in Wicklow


Mr Dick Roche, T.D., Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government today (21 May 07) announced a programme to restore the Red Kite, a native bird of prey to the Republic of Ireland.  This international, co-operative project follows the success of the Golden Eagle Reintroduction Project in Donegal and the outstanding success of several Red Kite reintroduction projects in Britain.  The birds are to be transported under licence from Wales, which is a stronghold of the species, and released in selected locations in the east of Ireland. The project is to start this year with the release of up to thirty kites in Wicklow. A partner project on the release of kites in Northern Ireland is proposed to begin in 2008.

The Red Kite, which was once common and widespread in these islands, became extinct in Ireland in the eighteenth century due to persecution, poisoning and woodland clearance.  Although the birds are natural scavengers, they feed extensively on earthworms, insects and small mammals such as rabbits.  The Red Kite does not present any threat to livestock and in parts of the UK they have become major tourist attractions as they perform spectacular aerial displays.

The Wicklow Red Kite Project is a partnership between the Golden Eagle Trust, the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG) and the Welsh Kite Trust.  It is funded by grants from DEHLG and the Heritage Council.

Further information from:

Damian Clarke,
Golden Eagle Trust.
Tel: 086 3284463


The Red Kite is so called because of its reddish brown body and tail. Its tail is deeply forked making it an easily recognisable bird. Kites have a wingspan of up to 1.8m

Kites normally breed in their second or third year. They build stick nests in trees, their nests are lined with wool. Prior to laying, kites often decorate their nests with scraps of cloth and paper, prompting Shakespeare to write in A Winters Tale “When the kite builds, look to lesser linen”. They lay 2-3 eggs. We would expect breeding in Ireland by 2010.

The Irish name for the Red Kite is An Préachan Ceirteach, the “Cloth Kite”. This name is derived from the habit of stealing cloths mentioned above.

Kites take a very wide range of prey. Carrion is an important part of the diet in winter. Kites also primarily take small mammals, crows, pigeons, insects and worms. Due to their small feet and weak beaks, kites are not particularly powerful predators.

The kite was driven to extinction in Ireland and all parts of Britain except for Wales. A remnant population of the Red Kites managed to survive in the remote Welsh Uplands. At its lowest point there were only three breeding pairs of kites. Today due to the efforts of the Welsh Kite Trust, landowners and Welsh farmers there is a population of around 600 breeding pairs.

The Welsh Kite Trust is a registered charity devoted to the conservation of the Red Kite in Wales. The Welsh Kite Trust will be in charge of the monitoring and collecting of the kite chicks from Wales. For more information on the Welsh Kite Trust see

The Red Kite project is part of Ireland’s wider efforts to help halt the decline, and even increase our national Biodiversity. In particular, Ireland has the lowest range of birds of prey and owls in Europe.

Just like the proposed Red Kite project, a reintroduction programme to restore Golden Eagles in Donegal began in 2001.  This  programme is being carried out by a partnership between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Golden Eagle Trust Ltd. 

The Department is also funding a programme, through the Heritage Council and managed by BirdWatch Ireland, which is examining the specific ecological needs of Barn Owls and erecting Barn Owl nest boxes. 

These initiatives will help stabilise and enhance Ireland’s native raptors over the years and restore some of our most thrilling wildlife.

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