Dead Red Kite Found Shot near Leeds Bradford Airport

Police are appealing for information after a protected bird of prey was shot and killed in Leeds.

The red kite was found by a walker on the evening of Friday, April 10, in the Carlton Moor area, close to Leeds Bradford Airport and the High Trees Garden Centre, in Otley Old Road.

He retrieved the dead bird and contacted Yorkshire Red Kites who, with support from the Harewood Estate, arranged for x-rays which showed the presence of at least 12 shotgun pellets.

shot kite 1shot kite 2

Officers from Leeds District Wildlife and Rural Crime Team are investigating the incident and would like to hear from anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area around the time.

They are also calling on the public to assist their work to combat offences against birds of prey by supporting the national Operation Owl initiative which helps people to recognise and report any suspicious activity and play their part in bringing those responsible for such crimes to justice.

Sergeant Dave Lund, West Yorkshire Police Force Wildlife Officer, said: “People will be understandably appalled that someone has shot and killed one of these majestic birds that are such welcome sight in our skies.

“We are investigating this incident and would like to hear from anyone who saw anything unusual in the area or who has any information that could assist in identifying the person responsible.

“We need the public to be our eyes and ears in support of our work to tackle wildlife crimes such as this and we would encourage anyone who does pick up on anything in their area to report it so we can take appropriate action alongside our partner agencies.”

Since their reintroduction into Yorkshire, starting in 1999, many kites have been shooting victims. At least 13 are known to have died of their injuries whilst several others either recovered or had been victims of illegal poisoning but had been found to be carrying lead shot from non-fatal shooting incidents.

Doug Simpson, Yorkshire Red Kites Co-ordinator, said “It appears inevitable that we will continue to have a small number of people who persist in flouting the law which protects our wildlife. It once again raises the question of the suitability of some people to be licensed to own guns. This is not the first time that kites have been targeted at their nests – a particularly sickening and cowardly thing to do.

“Counting this latest victim, no fewer than 47 Red Kites have been confirmed as victims of illegal persecution since releases began in Yorkshire in 1999. That roughly half of them have been found by people out walking in the countryside shows the importance of everyone keeping their eyes open for anything untoward and reporting it.”

Anyone with information which could relate to this incident is asked to call West Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting crime reference 13200186201 or online via

Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

A Scottish visitor or immigrant?

We had a reported sighting of a Red Kite from Knaresborough last week that included the photo below. This was tagged Red/Blue 2 which indicated that it was a red kite of Central Scottish origin.

We’ve heard back from Central Scotland. They didn’t do any tagging last year. The type of tag shown wouldn’t have been in use in 2001 so this all points to it being a bird from 2010.

Assuming this to be correct, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that the bird has been down here for some time and could well be breeding somewhere local.

Scotish RK

The Dutch Bird

Every now and again we get sent an image and a query from further afield.

This time, the original information came to us from across the water in the Netherlands. A link to a report on a local birding website showed the sighting of a red kite (24th March 2020) with the wing tag "Orange 08X". There was also an accompanying photograph:

Dutch Kite 2

The bird was obviously NOT British by origin, but the tag's source was unknown.

We do love a mystery here at YRK, so decided to investigate further.

It turns out that the tag (Orange 08X) is almost definitely on a bird that originated from the Sternberger Seenland region (E. of Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.) and in the direction of Güstrow and Schwaan (N and E).

Most of the red kites in Britain have migrated in an east to north-easterly direction, along the line of the prevailing wind. Orange 08X had flown 220 miles against the wind.

Dutch Kite Map

At the moment we are awaiting a reply from our German colleagues. We may yet learn more about the birds age and sightings.

In the meantime folks, stay safe BUT if you spot a red kite, and particularly if the bird is tagged, DO LET US KNOW here at Yorkshire Red Kites.

YRK Newsletter (21)


Newsletter – Issue (21)

Sightings of Red Kites continue to be reported from an increasingly wide area, showing that the birds are continuing to explore new locations. However, there has still been no confirmation of breeding pairs to the south of Leeds. Issue 20 reported on the increase in sightings of kites in the North Nottinghamshire, North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire localities, they having become a regular sight as far north as the Doncaster area. Such reports (including two breeding records which were not quite in Yorkshire) have continued in the ensuing period and it will surely not be long before kites become a regular and widespread feature in the landscape throughout the county – particularly when this northerly progression reaches areas already populated by birds originating from the Yorkshire release site at Harewood. It is likely that these are predominantly kites which have spread northwards from the well-established Midlands population, arising from birds released in Northamptonshire in the mid-1990s. Such traffic of Midlands birds northwards is something we’ve been aware of, on a small scale, for a number of years, the occasional tagged Midlands bird having joined the Yorkshire breeding population in the past.

Breeding monitoring continued in 2019, albeit that circumstances beyond our control prevented this being as thorough as usual. This resulted in many locations not being checked at all and some only early in the breeding season to confirm occupation of territories. A rough estimate is that around half of potential sites were confirmed as occupied. The table below shows such figures as are available, the bracketed figures being from 2018 when more thorough monitoring was possible.






West Yorkshire 

39  (66)

39  (61)

25  (52)

37  (94)

North Yorkshire

43  (47)

42  (45)

38  (35)

54  (68)

East Yorkshire

7  (11)

7   (11)

6  (11)

9  (17)


89 (124)  

88 (117)

69   (98)

100 (179)

Average young raised per successful pair:  1.45 (1.83)


News of older birds. Two birds from the original 1999 releases were identified in 2019. One was found at Harewood in a distressed condition. It received veterinary attention and was cleaned up before being released back at Harewood. The second was the male from the first pair of released birds to breed in East Yorkshire. A fortuitous very close sighting enabled part of the number on his leg ring to be read. A bit of detective work showed that it was highly improbable that any other kites with a similar number would have been present in the area – the ring having been fitted in the Chilterns before it was brought up to Yorkshire for release. The bird had been identified at this site from its wing-tags and radio-transmitter in the early days of the project so there was little room for doubt as to his identity. Before finally settling at the East Yorkshire site and assuming family responsibilities, he made the trip back to Harewood on a number of occasions. His original mate died in 2014 in mysterious circumstances at the age of 15. This year he and his new mate raised 2 young.

Persecution of kites in North Yorkshire continues to be an issue. Recent, very late, press notices recorded poisoning victims located at Thixendale near Malton (December 2018) and Blazefield near Pateley Bridge (March 2019). The latter was yet another victim found in the now infamous Nidderdale AONB bird of prey killing zone. The AONB authorities have addressed this issue in their recently published Evidence Report which forms part of its Management Plan for the period 2019 to 2024. The report can be found here:

It is particularly relevant to Red Kites as no fewer than 23 are known to have been either poisoned or shot in the AONB. This is a terrible record – undoubtedly the worst in England for any given area. The method used in poisoning cases – baits containing poison left in the open countryside - shows an incredible degree of irresponsibility. Once left out, the poisoner has no control whatsoever over what might find and feed on the bait. Only he will know what species he is targeting – it might be kites or it could quite simply be anything which is perceived as a threat to his interests. Either way, there would be nothing to prevent a dog, for example, finding the bait and suffering the consequences. Such instances have been recorded. Worse still, the bait could be a small rabbit – as was the case on Lofthouse Moor in 2012 – which is found and picked up by a child.

Suspected wildlife crime should be reported immediately to the Police on 101. Ask to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer and request an incident number. If there is an indication that poisoning is involved (eg obvious poison bait, a discharge from the bird’s beak or multiple deaths), it should also be reported to the Wildlife Incident Investigations Scheme (WIIS) on 0800 321600.

Many persecution victims have been found by members of the public whilst visiting the countryside. You may wish to enter these contact details on your mobile phone so that you have them to hand if you find something suspicious. If you do find anything of this nature, please make sure that you do not touch it as poison(s) might be present. Please also avoid disturbing the immediate area as it could be a potential crime scene. Further information on dealing with casualties can be found on the website.

Anyone wishing to discuss these issues may do so by contacting RSPB Investigations who have a confidential Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101 and email reporting facility at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The RSPB has published an online Raptor Persecution Map Hub showing details of confirmed raptor persecution incidents from 2012 to 2018. It can be found at

Rat poisons are an ever-present threat, albeit that no kite casualties from birds having fed on rats killed by them were reported this year. There have been efforts in recent years to encourage the more responsible use of these substances – not least in using a professional rather than a DIY approach - and it is possible that this is paying off. The rat/rodenticide issue is a dynamic situation, rats constantly developing resistance to new poisons. This has prompted a monitoring scheme run by the Rodenticide Resistance Action Committee in conjunction with Reading University whereby the testing of samples (typically the end of the tail) of rats can show whether they are rodenticide resistant and, if so, to which poisons. The application of this information can then avoid the use of the less effective poisons to which resistance has been detected, so enabling a more effective choice to be made, a reduction in the overall amount of rodenticide released into the environment and a speedier resolution to rat infestation problems – until the next time!

Accidental deaths are reported from time to time. Issue 20 reported on the remains of a kite being found at the foot of a power-pole on the edge of a wood near Otley. Mounted on the pole was a transformer with large exposed terminals. The remains of the bird were too far decomposed for the cause of death to be determined, but it was a reasonable assumption that it had come into contact with the exposed live terminals and adjacent cables before falling to the ground below. The situation was drawn to the attention of Northern Powergrid who fitted screening around the exposed sections to prevent further problems. It is unfortunate that the screening of live, exposed, transformer cables and terminals is not obligatory at the time that such transformers are erected.

Reports of kites regularly frequenting new areas are particularly welcome. This helps us to confirm new breeding pairs and monitor the progress of the expanding population. They can be reported through the ‘Contact Us’ facility on the website.


Acknowledgements. Thanks again to the many landowners and their representatives, gamekeepers, farmers, members of the public and veterinary practices who have assisted this year. The ongoing financial support from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for Red Kite monitoring work is very much appreciated.

The Tale (tail) Of The Ragged Kite!

Sam Reynolds Aug19 002a

We've had several photos sent to us recently of red kites looking "worse for wear"!

Red kites moult a small number of their feathers on an annual basis, with non-breeding birds starting to moult earliest in the year (even as early as April). Parents tend to start moulting once their young have fledged in June / July.

Moulting is an energy-sapping process, it taking individual feathers 8 to 10 weeks to grow back to full size.

Many times you will spot that the gaps in the wing feathers are symmetrical (same on both sides), this is a natural occurrence helping the birds maintain their flying abilities. In general feathers will be moulted in the same pattern / order on each wing during each moult season, with moulting normally having concluded by November.

Our red kites do not migrate over large distances, though you will find them congregating in 'winter roosts'. As with many birds moulting is unusual during winter months as the birds are conserving their energy. If you see a bird with a missing feather at this time of the year it may well have been damaged by flying into something!

Sam Reynolds Aug19 004

A section taken from © Sam Reynolds photo clearly shows at least 3 areas of regrowth on the right wing.

Martin Roper Aug19 001a

A great image from © Martin Roper showing asymetrical missing primary feathers near the end of the wing and regrowing secondaries (as seen) hidden from view nearer the body. We can clearly see a regrowing tail feather (retrices).

White Feather2a

The image above from © Terence Porter, which featured in a previous News story, shows the white on primary feathers that is normally covered by the last (missing) primary feather.

Leon Kirkbride July19 0017

And a final image from © Leon Kirkbride which appears to show a red kite with a damaged wing feather

There has been little research in to the annual moult of the red kites, but for those who would like to learn more about raptors and their moult we can suggest reading