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Red Kite
Milvus milvus

Status: Near Threatened

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: 

Milvus milvus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical/Palearctic. Southern Scandinavia east to UKRAINE and south through central Europe to BRITISH ISLES, western and central Mediterranean Basin, and Caucasus; MOROCCO; formerly CANARY ISLANDS and CAPE VERDE ISLANDS; northern and eastern breeding populations winter in the Iberian Peninsula, Mediterranean Basin, and northern Africa. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic. more....

Taxonomy: Within the Accipitridae, the genera Milvus and Haliaeetus (sea eagles) cluster together (Wink 1995, Wink et al. 1996) and are in a clade with Buteo and Accipiter (Wink and Seibold 1995). On the basis of syringeal morphology, Griffiths (1994) concluded that Milvus and Haliastur are sister taxa. The Red Kite occasionally hybridizes with M. migrans (e.g., Wobus and Creutz 1970, Schmidt and Schmidt 2006). The extirpated Cape Verde Islands population was formerly regarded as a separate race fasciicauda, or even a full (phylogenetic) species by some authors (e.g., Hazevoet 1995), but recent molecular studies by Johnson et al. (2005) of museum specimens and birds captured on the island of Maio indicated that it was not even a distinct evolutionary unit. However, Hille and Collar (2009) argued that the latter analysis was actually conducted on five individuals of Black Kites, rather than on birds that might have been "Cape Verde" Kites, so the taxonomic status of the original population may still be unresolved.

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006). Birds from the northernmost breeding populations winter in southern Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, and northern Africa. Some individuals in the southern portion of the breeding range winter in Europe. more....

Habitat and Habits: In most of its range, it inhabits mature deciduous and mixed forests, often occurring at forest edges. In the Czech Republic, breeding habitat includes a mosaic of mature, but not dense, deciduous forest with clearings and meadows, cultivated fields and pastures in both lowlands and highlands, and it also occurs in flooded and riverine forests (Kren 2000). In Corsica, the habitat is characterized by a mosaic of Mediterranean bush, pastures, oaks, pinewoods and olive tree plantations (Mougeot and Bretagnolle 2006). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on carrion, but also takes rodents, small birds, and insects (grasshoppers, beetles, ants, craneflies), and earthworms (Carter 2001). Duffy (2009) observed four kites hawking for moths in Scotland during June 2005. In Corsica and other areas, rabbits are the principal prey, and it also feeds on carrion and human refuse (Mougeot and Bretagnolle 2006).

Breeding: Builds a stick nest placed in a deciduous or coniferous tree, usually within 100 m of a woodland edge (Brown and Grice 2005). Clutch size is 2-3 eggs, which are white with faint rusty brown scribblings (Flint 1984). The young fledge after 7-8 weeks and are dependent for another 3-4 weeks (Brown and Grice op cit.). more....

Conservation: Common in some portions of its breeding range in Iberia and west-central Europe, but a moderate decline has taken place recently. The breeding population was thought to have been stable from 1970-1990. Although populations were mostly stable or increased in several countries during 1990-2000, key populations in Germany, France, and Spain declined, and the species suffered more than a 10% decline overall (BirdLife International 2004). The population on the Cape Verde Islands is now thought to be extinct (Johnson et al. 2005, Hille and Collar 2009). Categorized globally as "Declining" and as Near Threatened by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: The European population was estimated at 19,000-24,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council 2000) and later at 19,000-25,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). Significant declines in both the breeding and wintering populations in Spain, one of the strongholds for the species, occurred between 1994 and 2004 (Viñuela 1994, Cardiel 2006). more....

Important References: 
BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council. 2000. European bird
  populations: estimates and trends. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 10.
  BirdLife International,Cambridge, UK.
Carter, I. 2001. The Red Kite. Arlequin Press, Chelmsford, UK.
Mougeot, F., and V. Bretagnolle. 2006. Breeding biology of the Red Kite
  Milvus milvus in Corsica. Ibis 148:436-448.
Nicolai, B. 1997. In W.J.M. Hagemeijer and M.J. Blair (eds.). The EBCC
  atlas of European breeding birds: their distribution and abundance. T. and
  A.D. Poyser, London.
Orta, J. 1994. Red Kite. P. 118 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J.
  Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World vultures
  to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Ortlieb, R. 1989. [The Red Kite Milvus milvus]. Neue Brehm-Bücherei no.
  532. A. Ziemsen Verlag, Wittenberg, Germany. (In German)
Viñuela, J., R. Marti, and A. Ruiz. 1999. [The Red Kite in Spain]. SEO
  Monografia no. 6. SEO/BirdLife, Madrid, Spain. (In Spanish)
Walz, J. 2005. Rot- und Schwarzmilan: flexible Jäger mit Hang zur
  Geselligkeit. AULA-Verlag, Wiebelsheim, Germany.

Sites of Interest:
Red Kite Feeding Station
Contains information on all UK Red Kite monitoring schemes.
The Welsh Kite Trust
Devoted to the Red Kite in Wales and nearby portions of England.
Northern Kites
An ambitious project to reintroduce Red Kites to northern England.
Red Kite Reintroduction Project
Details on a program to re-establish a viable, self-sustaining breeding population of Red Kites in eastern Ireland after an absence of over 200 years.
Pyrénées Vivantes
Red Kites in the Pyrenees.
Species account.
Red Kite photos.

Agostini, Nicolantonio
Amar, Arjun
Caldarella, Matteo
Fiuczynski, Klaus Dietrich
Gercken, Marian
Heptinstall, Danny
Johnson, Jeff A.
Mindell, David
Nadjafzadeh, Mirjam
Newton, Ian
Schröpfer, Libor
Seminario, Yeray
Sergio, Fabrizio
Smith, Keith B.
Taranto, Paolo

Last modified: 11/3/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Red Kite Milvus milvus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 18 May. 2021

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