Are humans helping the number of red kites to soar?
Release Date 07 October 2011
A University of Reading researcher is asking for the public's help for a project which will examine the success of the reintroduction of the red kite. PhD student Melanie Orros, from the University of Reading's School of Biological Sciences, will conduct the UK's first large-scale questionnaire of people who feed red kites in gardens.
The red kite is a large raptor of global conservation concern. Prior to the late 1980s the species had been absent from England and Scotland for nearly 100 years. There have been very few successful reintroductions of any species in the UK but since 1989 the red kite has been the subject of the largest, and perhaps most successful, species reintroduction in the country to date.
Perhaps surprisingly, large numbers of red kites have been seen in urban and suburban areas (particularly Reading) close to reintroduction sites. There are many possible reasons for this and one could be that people are feeding them in gardens.
Melanie Orros said: "The red kite is primarily a carrion feeder so will take various types of meat. Feeding kites in private gardens has become increasingly popular in some areas close to reintroduction sites, however hardly any research has been carried out into garden feeding of kites so little is known on the quantities, types of food and how often people feed them and why. There are likely to be many factors behind the kites' presence in built-up areas and I'm interested to see if this association with humans might beone that has tipped things in their favour."
Red kite reintroductions originally took place at two sites, one near Reading (in the Chilterns) and the other in Northern Scotland. Several more followed across the UK including sites near Gateshead and Leeds until 2010.
There have been encouraging population increases. This is particularly true of the Chilterns' reintroduction, with around 400-500 breeding pairs by 2008. In recent years the red kite has spread from the immediate vicinity of the release and is now common in the skies above Reading and the surrounding areas.
Melanie Orros continued: "Reading is probably the only large urban area in the UK where large numbers of kites are
"I would be very grateful if members of the public who have ever fed red kites in their gardens could complete the questionnaire. Their responses will provide basic information on the amount and type of food being put out and whether this varies across the country. The collected data will help answer the question as to whether the red kite's relatively high densities in urban/suburban areas is due to garden feeding, or other factors such as the amount of road kill or green space in a given area."
To take part in the survey please visit http://www.survey.bris.ac.uk/reading/redkites or to request a paper copy please write to Melanie Orros, University of Reading Red Kite Feeding Survey, Room 205, 2nd floor, Lyle Tower, University of Reading Whiteknights Reading RG6 6BX
For more information, please contact James Barr, press officer, on 0118 378 7115 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Editors:
Melanie Orros's PhD focuses on the feeding of wild birds. She recently undertaken a study on the possible effect feeding garden birds has on the numbers of insects on plants.
The University of Reading's School of Biological Sciences is a research intensive institution which prides itself on the excellence and relevance of its degree courses. It consists of two sections - Biomedical Sciences and Environmental Biology. The latter deals primarily in ecology and evolutionary biology, and the applied links between these disciplines, wildlife conservation and the biological control of agricultural pests and diseases.
- The University of Reading is one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The University is ranked in the top 20 UK higher education institutions in securing research council grants worth nearly 10 million from EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, AHRC and BBSRC. In the RAE 2008, over 87% of the university's research was deemed to be of international standing. Areas of particular research strength recognised include meteorology and climate change, typography and graphic design, archaeology, philosophy, food biosciences, construction management, real estate and planning, as well as law.
- Standards of teaching are excellent - the University scored highly in the National Student Survey 2011. 89% of Reading students responding to the survey stated they were satisfied with the quality of their course.
- The University is estimated to contribute 600 million to the local economy annually.
- University of Reading is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience. www.1994group.ac.uk
- More information at www.reading.ac.uk