Monday, 25 May 2009

Red Kite delight.........

Yesterday the weather was glorious which made a trip over to the Red Kite feeding station at Rhayader in the Powys region of mid- Wales even more of a pleasure

The sheep that most Welsh hill farmers rely on for a living had been sheared (Shawn the Sheep....? the previous week and the sheep at Gigrin Farm were no doubt enjoying the sun on their back, like the rest of us. This photo is a view looking toward the village of Rhayader from Gigrin Farm.

Wales has a policy of dual language for highway and public signage. I bet you always wondered what 'Kite Feeding Station' was in the Welsh language! So many words, so few vowels...grinning.

The origins of the feeding station lie back in the foot and mouth outbreak of the early 1990's. The Red Kite is a scavenger and feeds on the inevitable carrion found in sheep rearing areas. Rarely will a kite kill prey and will often steal food from other birds. Subsequently, strict laws about the disposal of dead sheep decreased the chances of survival for the kite.

Back in 1993, hill farmer, the late Eithel Powell, noticed a decline in the number of kites roosting at Gigrin over the winter. He began to feed them with fresh rabbit meat - and the rest as they say is history. Numbers of kites roosting over winter have risen from a dozen in the first year to over 400 in recent winters.

The red kites at Gigrin are native to Wales and not introductions from continental stock. Recent DNA tests have revealed that all those tested were descendants of a single female! Feeding takes place at 2pm in winter and 3pm in summer.

As Mrs Powell pointed out to me, Welsh tongue in Welsh cheek, the kites don't know we change the clocks twice a year!

Sure enough at 3pm, the kites started to circle. Usually the crows come in to feed first as this shows the kites that all is safe. Some kites will then swoop in and grasp the meat in their talons, before making off with the meat held tightly between the tail.

Others will swoop low over the crows and will try to make them rise from the field with food, whereupon they can make chase and rob the crows in mid flight.

The meat being fed is beef, fit for human consumption and anything up to a quarter of a tonne of meat can be taken depending on the time of year and the number of kites visiting. Kites have been known to travel 30 miles to the feeding station.

The kites will then take the meat aloft to find clear airspace (otherwise they would be robbed by another kite) and true to their impressive abilities in the air, will eat the meat whilst flying.

You can learn more here:


  1. A spectacular bird in a picturesque setting. What a great outing. Thanks for the link, I've enjoyed wandering through the site.

  2. Wonderful post. And spectacular pictures. I feel particularly drawn to all birds of prey. These kites are so beautiful. The world would have been a lessor place without them in it.

  3. Glorious photos, Michael! I didn't even know a kite was a bird, teehee!

  4. I didn't even know you were a bird watcher...of the flying kite variety, of course. ;~P

  5. Hi Michael,

    I hope you were under cover! Great shots.

  6. being "undercover"....egads..

    Fabulous pictures M...

    I also didn't realize that Kites are birds.