Red kites defended by RSPB

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RED kites are not to blame for an apparent decline of songbirds, despite the fears of some nature lovers.

Fears about the increasing red kite population have been voiced by readers including Warwick Banks, of Witham-on-the-Hill and Hilary Blunt, of Bridge Street, King’s Cliffe.

Warwick Banks was concerned there are far too many red kites which is upsetting the balance of nature.

He said: “Many people have reported noticeable reductions in the numbers of small garden birds, myself included.

“A walk through a wood reveals little in the way of bird life and even the squirrels are scarce.

Hilary Blunt, of King’s Cliffe, said: “I have actually watched them taking fledgling rooks from the rookery 30 yards from the house, despite the frantic attempts of the rooks to dissuade them and they have been bold enough to take young collared doves from nests in the grapevine on the house.”

The red kite was almost wiped out in Britain in the late 1700s. But careful conservation has seen their numbers soar. In the East Midlands the population grew from no breeding pairs in 1996 to 74 pairs in 2006, and the number continues to rise.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds claims there is no evidence to suggest red kites are having an unusual effect on songbird numbers.

A spokesman said: “It’s not impossible that kites are eating songbirds, but they tend to be scavengers. Numbers are growing but the evidence doesn’t point to a link between that and a decline in songbird numbers.”

The RSPB points to a study by the British Trust for Ornithology, which found that over almost 40 years there was no statistically significant link between flourishing predator numbers and declining songbird populations.

A successful breeding scheme at Top Lodge at Fineshade Woods, introduced red kites to the area about 15 years ago. The lodge now offers kite walks during breeding season, although the birds can be seen all year round.

Letters – page 14