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Red Kite (satellite tagged B3) Milvus milvus 2-11-14 | by Brian Carruthers-Dublin-Eire
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Red Kite (satellite tagged B3) Milvus milvus 2-11-14

Red Kites are distinctive because of their forked tail and striking colour - predominantly chestnut red with white patches under the wings and a pale grey head.

They have a wingspan of nearly two metres (about five-and-a-half-feet), but a relatively small body weight of 2 - 3 Ibs.

This means the bird is incredibly agile, and can stay in the air for many hours with hardly a beat of its wings.

 

Red Kites are neither particularly strong nor aggressive despite being large birds.

Primarily a scavenger and an opportunist; it profits from sheep carrion but is not capable of opening up sheep or lamb carcasses by itself and has to wait until more powerful birds such as ravens or buzzards have made the first inroads before it will attempt to feed.

Red Kites are however predators and take a wide variety of live prey, ranging from earthworms to small mammals, amphibians and birds.

 

Red Kites usually breed for the first time at 2 or 3 years old. They usually pair for life, although this is thought to be more because of a mutual attachment to the same territory and nest sites rather than any great attachment to each other.

 

There are a few recorded cases of 'divorces' where both members of the original pair were later found breeding with different partners.

Nests are built almost exclusively in trees - mostly in hardwoods, such as oaks, and are usually built at a height of between 4 and 30 metres above the ground. They are usually fairly flat, untidy structures of sticks about 2 feet in width.

 

For established pairs, courtship and nest-building usually start in earnest during March, about 2 - 4 weeks before the first egg is laid, but first-time breeders may not start until April.

 

Eggs are normally laid at three-day intervals. Between one and four are usually laid, two being by far the most usual number. Incubation is carried out by the female, who is fed at the nest by the male. Males will incubate for very short periods (usually less than 30 minutes) while the female goes off to feed, hunt or preen. Each egg will hatch between 31 and 35 days after incubation, resulting in chicks hatching at two or three day intervals.

 

Because of this, sibling aggression is common and the larger chick will peck vigorously at its younger nest-mates if they attempt to get food before it has had its fill. In nests where food is in short supply the size difference between the chicks will increase with the smaller one(s) ultimately dying of starvation or being killed by the larger chick(s).

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Taken on November 2, 2014