Red Kite Feeding Habits
Red Kites, despite being large birds are neither particularly strong or aggressive. When hunting live prey, a low gliding flight is employed so that the kite can search for small movements on the ground and then it quickly dives and grasps the creature in its talons.
Red Kites are primarily opportunists and scavengers; they profit from sheep carrion.
Being relatively weak for a bird of its size, the kite 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..
It is however a predator in that it takes a wide variety of live prey, ranging from earthworms to small mammals, amphibians and birds.
A Kite has excellent eye sight and uses this when over flying the countryside in search of food.
An especially good hunting ground for red kites, and a host of other predators, is the land between the cultivated valley bottom and lower slopes and the open hill top. Here there is often bracken, gorse and heather sheltering great numbers of rabbits, voles, moles and field-mice.
In days gone by Red Kites would frequently be seen around abattoirs and rubbish tips but with new regulations and EEC directives, butcher's waste now has to be contained and tips are covered each day.
Scavenging has always been a way of life for the kite and it fares very well in the sheep country of Mid-Wales where it will often find the carcass of a sheep especially in the winter and at lambing time in the spring.
The legs and feet are bright yellow and can often be seen when the bird is in flight. Unlike the buzzard, it is usually silent while hunting, but it can be noisy when fighting for scraps of food with carrion crows and other kites.
Officially sheep carcasses are to be buried but, luckily for the Kite, this was often neither possible nor practical for some farmers due to the often remote location.
Recent legislation means all fallen stock now has to be sent for incineration and so depriveing kites of what has previosly been a major part of their diet.