The red kite is a predatory and aggressive, but incredibly graceful and beautiful bird. This species is considered quite rare in nature. To increase the number of kites in some countries, agreements were signed on their protection. On the territory of Russia in 2016, they even issued a coin with a face value of 2 rubles on which he is depicted. The red kite can be found both in our country and in Europe. In the sky, they can be distinguished by their characteristic extended cries. Let’s talk in more detail about such a bird as the red kite.
Origin of the species and description
The red kite is a large bird of prey that is capable of literally “hanging” in the sky for a long time in search of its prey. Birds fly at high altitude, so the species of the hawk family is very difficult to distinguish with the naked eye. Only researchers or ornithologists can cope with this task.
It is believed that the word kite is an echo of the name of the bird, which was given to it by the Russian writer and ethnographer Vladimir Ivanovich Dal in 1882. Even then he called this bird krachun. At the beginning, the feathered one did not have its own name and was compared with snake-eaters, since they have a similar appearance and diet. After a while, the kite finally got its name.
In general, the bird gained more or less wide popularity in the 17th century, when most species of the red kite settled in the cities of Europe. At that time, a lot of garbage accumulated on the streets, as the government as a whole did not monitor sanitation. The red kite conscientiously cleaned the streets, as carrion is generally a good delicacy for him.
Appearance and features
The red kite is a small bird with an average wingspan. The length of his body can reach only 70-72 centimeters, and the span of some 190 centimeters. The bird also weighs not very much in comparison with its hawk family – approximately 1 kilogram.
Thanks to its graceful body, elongated feathers and fork-shaped tail, the red kite can perform incredible maneuvers while soaring in the sky. The back of the bird, just, plays the role of a kind of “helmsman”.
The red kite has predominantly reddish-brown plumage on the body with gray longitudinal on the chest. The feathers on the wings are white, black and dark gray. The head and neck are pale grey. The bird has a rather long tail, which often curves when flying at high altitude. The eyes of the red kite have a yellow-orange tint. The legs are painted bright yellow, so they can be seen even from the ground with the human eye.
The female and male do not differ in their appearance. This is called sexual dimorphism. Also, in chicks in the first years of their life, the plumage color is more blurred. The brown color is naturally distinguishable, but it is not as pronounced as in adults of this species.
Where does the red kite live?
The red kite can be found in flat and hilly areas. In this regard, the bird prefers large meadows next to a deciduous or mixed forest. In choosing its habitat, this species is used to refusing too wet or, on the contrary, arid territories.
The main part of the red kite population lives in Central, Southern Europe and off the coast of Africa. In Russia, a bird can be found not so often. Such individuals can only be seen somewhere in the Kaliningrad or Pskov regions. As for Europe, the red kite can be seen there, for example, in Scandinavia. In Africa, it is found near the Strait of Gibraltar, on the Canary Islands or the Cape Verde Islands.
There are both migratory red kites and sedentary ones. Birds that live in Russia, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Belarus are migratory. In winter, they move closer to another climatic zone, to the south, to the Mediterranean. Kites that live in the south or southwest during the winter stay in their nests.
What does the red kite eat?
Although the red kite is considered a fairly large bird, its nature did not endow it with special aggression. He has a graceful body, but he does not have much muscle mass. This fact makes it noticeably weaker compared to other birds of prey, such as buzzards or black vultures.
The hunting process is as follows. The red kite soars into the sky and literally “hangs” at a certain height. Then he carefully looks out for his prey, and when one has been seen, the predator falls sharply down and tries to capture it with its sharp, deadly claws.
The red kite prefers to eat small mammals, such as a mouse, a vole. From time to time, the feathered one is also not averse to eating small chicks, amphibians, reptiles and earthworms. As we noted earlier, the red kite used to feed on carrion, but even today many ornithologists notice a bird at such a dinner. If this species notices a picture that, for example, other birds of prey are feasting on a dead sheep, then it usually waits aside and flies to the prey when there are no other living creatures near it.
Features of character and lifestyle
The red kite sometimes aggressively treats its relatives. We are talking mainly about those birds that migrate to warm countries during the wintering period. Like all other birds, they need to settle down in a new place and build new nests, but not everyone gets a place for this newest place of residence. Due to the above factors, they sometimes have to fight each other.
Interesting fact: You can often see that the red kite decorates its nest with some bright object, for example plastic bags or shiny trash. All this the bird does in order to mark its territory.
The red kite, like all other species of the genus of true kites, is itself a very lazy and clumsy bird. In flight, he is very slow, but despite this, in his free time, he likes to stay at a great distance from ground level for a long time. It is interesting to note that the bird can soar in the air for more than 15 minutes without a single wingbeat
This species of hawk has a distinctive intelligence. They can easily distinguish an ordinary passer-by from a hunter, so at dangerous moments the red kite can easily hide from possible danger.
Social structure and reproduction
Reproduction of the red kite, like many birds, begins in spring, in March or April. They are considered monogamous, one of the reasons to believe so is the fact that the red kite is very attached to the place of residence where he himself was once born. Birds really tend to choose the same place each time for nesting with their mate.
Usually, birds perform a ritual that helps to choose a pair. The red kite is no exception. The male and the female fly at each other at high speed and only at the very last moment turn off the path. Sometimes they can spin for a long time, touching each other, from the outside you might think that this is a fight.
After the mating games, the future parents are engaged in arranging the nest, choosing high tree branches for it, reaching 12-20 meters. The material is dry twigs, grass, and a couple of days before laying — topped with sheep’s wool. Sometimes they choose abandoned buzzard or raven nests. An interesting feature is that the socket is used the same every time.
The clutch contains from 1 to 4 eggs, the color of which is white with a pattern of red speckles. Usually one offspring is grown per year. It hatches for 37-38 days. Almost all the time of incubation, the female does not leave the nest, and the male obtains food for her and for himself, and later for the offspring. And when the chicks are already 2 weeks old, then the mother flies out for food. Surprisingly, the chicks are quite unfriendly to each other. Babies begin to fly after 48-60 days, and completely leave their parents 2-3 weeks after the first flight. And already at the age of 2 years they can reproduce their offspring themselves.
Natural enemies of the red kite
Surprisingly, such a powerful and strong-willed bird has many natural enemies that cause a fairly large number of inconveniences for the successful development of the population.
The black kite is replacing the bird, which means that our feathered one has a rival who is looking for a similar food and takes up space, making it difficult to exist peacefully. As we already know, the red kite loves to nest in the same territory where it flies every year.
Their most powerful enemy — human. And the point here is not only in hunting this beautiful bird, but also in disturbing the peace in the area where birds are used to stopping. A lot of birds die on high power transmission lines. A lot of harm is also caused by compounds used as insecticides, acaricides, defoliants, such compounds include organophosphorus. Also very harmful are chlorine-containing compounds, which were mainly used as pesticides and are used in the same way as insecticides. These are the chemicals that are useful in the household that help people, but at the same time they are poison and death for many animals, including the red kite.
Also, bird clutches are ruined by gray crows, martens and weasels, which also prevents the preservation and increase of the population .
Population and species status
If we talk about the population of the red kite, then, unfortunately, its number has been very noticeably reduced. Now it has from 19 to 37 thousand pairs. Of course, the leading role of such an ailment is occupied by the activity of a person who, right there with a gun, is waiting for a beautiful and amazing bird. Of course, what is there to be surprised here, because the more powerful, inaccessible and beautiful the bird is, the more the desire to catch it, kill it, or worse, make a stuffed animal as a keepsake, as avid hunters like to do, grows. But it doesn’t end with the gun.
Human populations are expanding every year, and with them the natural habitat of the red kite is shrinking. Due to the expanded agricultural activity, it is difficult for these birds to nest, because they get used to one place. However, not everything is so sad, in central and northwestern Europe things are going up and in the last few years the populations are recovering slightly. But, of course, this is not enough, without the protection and help of a person they cannot survive. Birds are an important link in the food chain. We must try very hard not to violate the rules of nature, all living things are connected, many others can suffer from the disappearance of one species.
Protection of the red kite
If we are talking about the protection of the red kite, then first it should be noted that not everywhere the population is subject to a sharp decrease in numbers. In some places, it does not decline, but it still needs reliable protection and human help.
As we said above, the species is being replaced by the black kite, which is one of the main and serious reasons. The red kite occupies a status in the Red Book, which states that the bird is endangered. It is called a rare species, for which such assistance is provided as the conclusion of agreements between some countries on the protection of migratory birds, restrictions on agricultural activities, and restrictions on the area of cutting trees.
The red kite, of course, is included in the Red Book of the Russian Federation, as well as between Russia and India, an international agreement has been concluded on the protection of these birds. Birds are included in the list of rare birds of the Baltic region, Appendix 2 of the Bonn Convention, Appendix 2 of the Berne Convention, Appendix 2 of CITES. Also, in general, any harmful human activity during the nesting of the red kite is suspended. These and some other measures help populations not only survive, but also increase their numbers, because only that can save the species from extinction.
The red kite is an amazing and unique bird. Her physical data amaze all researchers of the fauna. The bird has incredible endurance and an excellent ability to hunt, but despite this, its numbers in nature are still declining. We need to carefully treat and monitor the population of this species, at least on the territory of our country. Do not forget that everything in nature is interconnected.