Red kites at Belton House

red kite

Thanks to the hard work of our rangers at Belton the once endangered red kite has now returned to nesting on the estate; so you may be fortunate enough to enjoy the sight of these majestic birds in flight on your visits.

Persecution by man for hundreds of years resulted in red kites becoming extinct in Scotland and England by the end of the 19th Century. The handful of populations remaining in Wales was insufficient to maintain a UK population and their reluctance to disperse led to the decision by conservationists to reintroduce the species back into England and Scotland.

Red kites are now regulars at Belton
Red kite in flight

A number of successful reintroductions, starting in 1989, has seen red kites spread out and colonise new locations. However, they expand their range slowly, preferring to remain close to their natal home. Luckily, in 2005 one was seen at the Trust’s Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire, but then none until 2011. Occasional sightings of individuals was becoming increasingly common as young birds moved slowly away from their birthplaces and the range of the species began to increase, so it wasn’t considered that exciting at the time.

Red kite rinding the thermals
Red kite in flight

However, one bird increased to two, sometimes three and on one occasion as many as four were spotted at Belton. Excitement grew as the frequency of seeing two birds and for longer and longer, increased. Surely, they must be nesting somewhere at Belton or close by? Regular sightings, pretty much all year round has now become the norm. Red kites can be seen displaying at Belton as early as January, suggesting they are indeed nesting here or close by. In 2015, nesting was finally confirmed!

Recently ringed red kite chicks
Red kite chicks being ringed

Red kites are mainly scavengers, feeding on carrion with roadkill being a significant source of food for them. Belton sightings are often over the A607 road that runs alongside Belton Park. However, they can be seen almost anywhere in the Park, often seen sharing airspace with ravens and buzzards utilising the updrafts over Belmount Woods