Thursday, 28 April 2011

High as the Kite

There has been much self-congratulatory news about the current UK status of the Red kite (Milvus milvus) that has 'recovered' with encouragement such as the creation of feeding stations from a few breeding pairs in Wales (http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/r/redkite/index.aspx) to substantial populations also in England and Scotland. One should note that the 'recovery' was at least partially 'fuelled' by introducing birds from Scandinavia (aliens?). The most interesting aspect of this story is that the recovery is largely a consequence of changing attitudes to the bird. When the birds were actively shot and poisoned people blamed them for everything including the demise of song and game birds and even the killing of lambs! The Red kite is clearly more of a vulture-like scavenger of dead animals than a powerful eagle-like bird of prey. I don't think the change in attitude really reflects improve understanding of the bird's nature. It seems more likely that 'birds of prey' have become more popular with the general populace.

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