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Red Kites Update:
Threats & causes of the decline
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Red Kites decline in Europe

In Germany, where 60% of the European population was found, the overall population declined 25% from 1994 to 1997 alone (U.Mammen. J Omithol., 2000), both in West and East Germany. Near Halberstadt, a former population of at least 230 pairs was down to 35 in 2000.

In North-eastern France, where about 2/3rds of the French breeding population was found, it has drastically declined everywhere (Alsace, Lorraine, Franche Comte) and even disappeared from large areas (Champagne-Ardennes). Recent reports from other areas indicate that the population, once considered to be safe, now shows signs of decline. The steady downward trend of the number of migrants counted through the Pyrenees (Orgambideska) is a reliable indicator of this general evolution of the European population.

In Spain, its third stronghold, reports of declines come from most provinces, involving both breeding and wintering populations. It has even disappeared from large protected areas such as the Donana National Park, where it was numerous and well studied. On the island of Minorca, a 1989 census gave 140 individuals, whereas in 1998 only 4 breeding pairs were found.

In Italy, where it was once found almost throughout, its distribution has now shrunk to only 5 small populations, the largest one in the Apennines (150 pairs). The decline was equally sharp in Sicily, where 15-25 pairs survive thanks to sustained conservation action.

Other European countries harbour relatively minor populations. Denmark, for instance, was recolonised in 1976 and the population peaked at 25 pairs in 1993 but halved shortly thereafter and was always low and unstable, with poor breeding success (< 50%). Austria was also recolonised in the 1980s, soon reaching 5-10 pairs that are now reduced to 0-2 along the eastern border.

Two small countries still hold an apparently stable, but no longer increasing, population: southern Sweden and Switzerland. Great Britain is an exception: after 15 years of an aggressive reintroduction programme the small surviving native Welsh population was reinforced by several English and Scottish new populations and the total number of breeding pairs in the country as a whole now exceeds 350.


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