Kite breeding results 1994 to 2018

The trends in nest success and chick productivity over 25 years

Between 1994 and 2018, over 6000 breeding attempts have been monitored with known outcomes, and these data are summarised in the graph below:

It is immediately obvious that, since 1994, there has been very little change during the period. The fluctuation in nest success (the grey line), which has ranged between 48% and 72%, is probably weather related, and the corresponding trend line shows that there has been a very slight long-term increase.

The fledged brood size of successful nests (orange line) shows a very slight downward trend. This offsets the slight increase in nest success resulting in a near static overall productivity of around 0.9 chicks per breeding attempt (blue line), with the fluctuations also explained by weather.

There has been a claim on a recent television programme that kites are now producing two or three young per pair as a result of supplementary meat provided by feeding stations, and that this explains the unexpected rapid increase in the population growth recorded since the early 1990’s, but the data show that brood size has not increased. Feeding stations could, however, have an effect on adult and 1st winter survival, especially during periods of snow cover when food is difficult to obtain in the wider countryside, and it is changes in survival that are most likely to have led to the population changes witnessed.

During cold weather in 2010 it is estimated that at least half the welsh kite population visited the feeding stations.

2018 Breeding Season Results – Red Kite

The early spring of 2018 will be remembered for an unseasonably cold snap at the end of February, “the Beast from the East” and this was followed by more cold weather in late March and into April. Bad weather early in the season can affect the breeding success of some species due to females perhaps being in poorer condition which in turn means they lay fewer eggs, so how did the cold weather affect kites during the later breeding season?

Well in the end, the summer turned out to be one of the warmest and driest on record, with very few heavy rain events or high winds, and altogether 171 breeding attempts were monitored. The results indicate that the cold snap early on actually had little or no lingering impacts;

Monitoring 2018Average 1994-2017
Nests Found171
Nests Successful123
% Nests Successful71.9%62.5%
Fledged Total161
Fledged per Nest0.940.90
Fledged per Successful Nest1.311.41

The number of young fledged per breeding attempt (0.94) is slightly higher than average, and the percentage of breeding attempts that were successful (71.9%) is the highest ever recorded, with the average from 1994 to 2017 being 62.5%.

With Welsh kites, lower nest survival is inevitably associated with bad weather, and the higher figure for 2018 is almost certainly due to the exceptionally warm dry weather during the 2018 main breeding season, resulting in ideal foraging conditions and less risk of exposure to wet and windy weather which is known to increase nestling mortality.

The slightly higher nest productivity in 2018 is due to a higher proportion of successful nests, rather than larger broods, as the mean productivity per successful pair (1.31) is lower than the long-term average of 1.41. It is predicted that brood size will begin to show a decrease as the population approaches its carrying capacity and competition for food limits productivity.

In 2018 brood size was smaller than average but overall productivity was higher due to better nesting success

Kite Breeding Season Results 2017

In total, 180 nests were monitored with the sample spread between the core area of the range and the edge.  Of these, 113 were successful, fledging 144 young. The mean number of young per nest was 0.80, and 1.27 per successful nest. As in previous years, the Shropshire red kites had the highest productivity, and this was due to larger brood sizes rather than a significantly higher nest success rate. Pembrokeshire showed the lowest productivity with nest failures associated with bad weather in early May and the first week of June. 

For the newsletter and more detailed reports click on the following links:

Boda Wennol WKT Newsletter Feb 2018

Detailed report of red kites in Llandeilo/Brecon area 2017

Detailed report of red kites in East Powys 2017

Detailed report of red kites in Shropshire 2017

Does anyone know of any breeding red kites in Shropshire?

If you see evidence of breeding Red Kites in Shropshire, we would like to know, please.

Contact: Leo Smith by email at,  or phone 01694 720296, or by filling in this contact form

Red Kites almost became extinct in Wales in the 1930’s, but the population slowly increased, reaching 100 pairs in 1993. They have spread since then, and two pairs nested unsuccessfully in Shropshire in 2005. One pair fledged two young here in 2006, the first successful breeding in Shropshire for 130 years. Six nests were found in 2007, and, by 2010, the population had reached 20 breeding pairs. Numbers have continued to increase.

In 2016, 24 pairs were located, and 23 nests were found; 18 were successful, producing 31 fledged young. (See full report here). Since the first successful breeding in 2006, more than 200 young are known to have flown from Shropshire nests. 180 of these young have been tagged as part of a long-term study.

Almost all found nests have been in the AONB in the south-west Shropshire hills, but the range is spreading, and there have been nests near Chirbury, and along Wenlock Edge and near the Clee Hills, in the last four years. As the range increases, they are harder for us to find, so reports from the rest of the county are particularly important, please.

Kites usually don’t breed until they are two or three years old. Young birds wander widely, so many sightings will be of immature birds. However, there should be even more nests to find this year, including some in north and east Shropshire. Most nests are started in late March, but first-time breeders may not lay until late April or early May. Nests are usually built in large trees, on steep hillsides. Young fly in late June or early July. Nest sites are kept confidential.

We are still trying to find all nests, so reports are wanted, please, of a pair together in spring, or displaying, or one seen several times in the same place, or one going into a wood, any time between March and June. Reports of wing-tagged birds are wanted too, please. All reports will be treated in absolute confidence. Kites are very shy, and they are legally protected. It is an offence to disturb them, but this monitoring is carried out under licence.

We aim to wing-tag more than 20 nestlings in 2017, so finding as many nests as possible this year is particularly important. This is the final year of the tagging study and we hope to increase the sample of tagged birds to over 200, so any help is gratefully received.

Thank you,

Leo Smith

Red kite nest monitoring in 2016

With mild weather forecast to continue through to the end of February, it is likely that many red kites will already be pairing up and hanging around their intended nest sites. They will often draw attention to themselves by their plaintive whinnying call, as was heard yesterday near a nest in Pembrokeshire that was used successfully in 2016 season. In 2016, WKT volunteer nest watchers managed to record the nest outcomes of 175 kite nests at widely scattered locations and these results are presented in the downloadable PDF file below.


Download 2016 kite monitoring results


2016 was an unremarkable breeding season for kites, being not especially good or bad, but how will they fare in 2017? It is already the time to get busy looking for this year’s nests.

NB red kite is a schedule 1 species requiring a disturbance license to monitor nests. It otherwise illegal to disturb breeding kites at the nest.

Paddy Jenks



Back from the Brink!

Back from the Brink!

The Red Kite was voted ‘Bird of the 20th Century’ and Wales’ favourite bird, the story of the Red Kite in Britain is a remarkable one, and rightly celebrated as one of Britain’s greatest conservation successes.

In mediaeval times the kite was abundant in towns and cities. In London, it was protected by Royal decree, in recognition of its service in removing refuse and dead animals that could otherwise harbour diseases. In the 14th and 15th centuries the Red Kite was probably the most numerous and familiar bird of prey in Britain. All this was to change.

In the mid 16th century a series of parliamentary Acts were invoked aimed at controlling ‘vermyn’. As a result, over the following three hundred years, the unfortunate kite was systematically slaughtered. By the turn of the century a mere handful of pairs survived in the remoter valleys of mid-Wales.

The subsequent recovery of the kite in Wales was not simply a matter of luck: a huge amount of time, money and effort have been invested in the past and so, in 1996, the Welsh Kite Trust was set up to ensure that the success already achieved was continued.