Sunday 5 June 2011

Red Kite influx in West Cornwall

On Friday 3rd June, approximately a dozen Red Kites were seen over Nanjizal, West Cornwall.  I went on Saturday 4th mid morning to the "Raftra viewpoint" overlooking Sennen, Skewjack and Nanjizal.  After twenty minutes wait I was pleasantly surprised to count at least 46 individuals fly past me.  There were three groups of a dozen or so, the rest singles or pairs.  Some were within 30 metres of me and just above eye level, giving incredible photo and viewing opportunities. 

Three birds came out of Nanjizal woods so presumably they had been roosting there.  The majority were very worn with heavy abrasion, with feathers missing in the wing and tail.  Only a handful had bright red upper-tail feathers; most were very dull.  The photos below show the generally poor state they were in. I also saw two birds with small plastic markers in the wing.

When the movement finished, I went to St Just to buy a pasty and saw another (or same) group of twelve between Cot Vally and the airfield.  John Chapple also saw another seven at St Buryan.  Many more sightings of ones and twos the length of the county were reported, so I guess the total number probably reached a good hundred birds. 

The general consensus is that these wandering, non-breeding birds are from UK stock rather than from the continent. 


  1. Interesting to see so many kites in Cornwall. From your pics and descriptions they appear to be young birds in moult, not having bred this year. Similar things have happened along the Sussex coast over the past month. It looks like migratory birds from the continent as they have been observed flying coastwards over the English Channel. Birds with coloured wing tags are definately British and most likely Welsh. The colour and tag number will denote when and where the bird came from and in most cases the nest.

  2. Great shots Steve, and I like the new blog layout.

  3. Hi Steve

    I tried to respond to Mike’s comments on your blog earlier but it hasn’t worked so thought I would try the old fashioned way! Although there have been some Red Kites in Sussex, these have been single individuals and I don’t share the view that our birds are of continental origin. The various British (not Welsh) reintroduction schemes has resulted in flocks of these birds visiting us in the south west over the last five years, usually in May. I think they were delayed this year by the bad weather – but they made it in the end as your fantastic photos show! After seeing nine over my house early Saturday, I went for a walk around Land’s End and caught up with c30 of your birds. Most don’t have wing tags these days but if you can see the colour combination check out this web site to see where they are from:

    I understand Dave Parker saw one with white tags on Friday which means it came from the Rutland area and was tagged in 2002.



  4. Thanks for the comments Mike and Monty. The above comment came from Dave Flumm, via Hotmail.

  5. Just to correct a small point. Red kites have been in Sussex for more than 8 years and have bred sucsessfully for the past 5. They can be found all the year round north of Chichester and we have several nesting pairs in the Horsham area. We also get the continental black kite which have been known to nest in Hampshire in past years.

  6. These are great shots Steve, most photographers would have to go to Gigrin Farm for these.