Red kite in oak tree

Distribution and population size

Almost the entire world breeding population of 18,000-24,000 breeding pairs is in Europe, with possibly a few pairs in Morocco.

Around Europe

Around two thirds of the birds breed in Germany, with significant populations in France and Spain. However, the Spanish wintering population, which includes many of the German and French birds has declined by 50 per cent in 10 years, making UK red kites increasingly important on a global scale.

The small remnant population that survived the persecution in the old oakwoods of mid-Wales has spread, but is still restricted within Wales. In England the reintroduced birds can be found in the Buckinghamshire/Oxfordshire area, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Gateshead and Grizedale Forest in Cumbria.

The Scottish population is centred around the release sites in Dumfries and Galloway, Stirling-shire and west Perthshire, around Black Isle in Ross-shire, and on the outskirts of Aberdeen City. Kites have also now been returned to Northern Ireland and the Welsh population continues to go from strength to strength.

Breeding and non-breeding populations

Non-breeding birds are regularly seen in all parts of Britain, and have recently become regular visitors to Northern Ireland. The English and Scottish breeding populations are expanding only slowly from the population centres, resulting in high densities of birds within the core areas.

There are probably around 1,800 breeding pairs in Britain (about 7 per cent of the world population) - about half in Wales, with the rest in England and Scotland. However, they are now so successful, we can't survey them on an annual basis.

British kites are mainly sedentary, although juvenile birds range widely during the winter months (records have been received from as far as Spain and Portugal), returning the following spring to the area they fledged from. Small numbers of continental migrants are regularly seen in southern and eastern Britain during spring.