A little History
The Red Kite was named the 'Bird of the Century' by the British Trust for Ornithology at the end of 1999, because of its determined fight back from the brink of extinction.
Once a common sight in towns and cities all over the UK, in the 16th Century a series of Government Acts declared that the kite was vermin, and it was decided that the Red Kite should be killed throughout Wales and England.
Such persecution continued and, by the end of the 18th Century, increasing numbers of gamekeepers were employed on country estates. They killed many more birds, and in the late 18th Century Red Kites had bred for the last time in England. In Scotland they suffered a similar fate.
Only in rural Mid Wales, specifically the Tywi and Cothi valleys, did the Red Kite hang on, its numbers down to just a few pairs.
Luckily at that point, some local landowners had the foresight to set up an unofficial protection programme to try to safeguard this beautiful bird.
Over a period of around 100 years, efforts to maintain the fragile breeding population were made by committed generations of landowners, rural communities, dedicated individuals, and organisations, specifically the Welsh Kite Trust and the RSPB.
Thanks to these people, and despite severe threats, Red Kite numbers are now gradually increasing.
The following text is a copy of the letter from Professor J.H. Salter to Mr. A.E. Forrest of Shrewsbury. Re. Kites killed near Talgarth end of 1902. One of which was then in the possession of Mr. I.P. Lloyd of Hay. It gives an insight into the sorry state of affairs then concerning Kite preservation, and the efforts being made to protect the birds..
Aberystwyth July 18, 1903
Dear Mr Forest,
It is most lamentable to hear of the slaughter of two kites near Talgarth, they must have been members of the small colony we are trying to protect. Cold weather no doubt caused them to stray to the lowlands.
I hope you will make an effort to secure exact details, when and where shot and in whose possession as there will be a melancholy interest attaching to such particulars when the species has finally disappeared.
Is the Kite which Mr Lloyd has in confinement a Welsh bird or Continental?
I am in correspondence with the Builth Naturalists Messrs Gwynne Vaughan and Walpole Bond. They know all about the kites and will do all that they can to assist.
It was Mr Gwynne Vaughan who had the tree in which one pair built protected by barbed wire so no one could climb it but the nest was reached and robbed by means of a ladder.
The same pair is stated (in Mr Sikes' book) to have brought off young last year - I have inquired into this case. It is certain that young were hatched and that they got to a good size but very uncertain whether they got off.
It is known that the shepherd was offered £1. a piece for the young birds.
Messrs Gwynne Vaughan and Walpole Bond believe that there are only three pairs left in the whole district and consequently in Wales, perhaps only two pairs since these two have been shot.
This would agree with your report that Jeffrey expects to take three clutches annually.
I have sent a statement of the case to be laid before British Ornithologists club at their meeting tonight.
I quite hope that they will issue an appeal bearing the signatures of prominent bird men pointing out the high degree of interest attaching to the kite and expressing a strong hope that it may be saved from extinction. We can forward a copy of this to each landowner in the district in question before the coming season.
Yours very truly