This week, a red kite twice tried to snatch a woman’s dog as she walked in fields near her home in the Cookham area of Berkshire. She managed to scare it off, but the incident raises the issue of whether or not the reintroduction of these birds, beautiful as they undoubtedly are, has been the success the RSPB claims.
Red kites were reintroduced to the Chilterns in 1989 and there are now more than 600 breeding pairs. The RSPB and local conservation groups have been continually trying to convince landowners, gamekeepers and members of the public that the birds pose no threat to livestock, game birds or pets.
The RSPB’s media manager, Gemma Butlin, insists red kites subsist on worms and carrion. “I’ve never heard of a case of a kite taking a pet rabbit or guinea pig to date,” she said. “They are big for a kite to take and there are much easier meals around in the countryside.” Describing the attacks as “very unusual”, she added: “Red kites are opportunistic hunters and they feed mostly on dead animals…They are not designed to catch agile prey, and are much better suited to scavenging for carrion.”
Carrion? Red kites will eat whatever they’re carryin’! They are primarily, but not exclusively, scavengers. The reintroduction has not been thought through properly and the RSPB and their conservationist friends should come clean about it.