Red Kites: Avoca’s garden birds

Red Kites: Avoca’s garden birds

After a two hundred year absence, Red Kites were re-introduced to Ireland 10 years ago now: young birds made the relatively short trip across the Irish Sea, this time via ferry and in the capable hands of personnel from NPWS and the Golden Eagle Trust. The Welsh ‘donor stock’ have taken really well to their new homes in counties Down, Fingal and Wicklow, a conservation success story and great credit is due to all concerned. Unusually for raptors, Kites are highly sociable and roost in biggish gatherings, all the more noticeable as Kites are comfortable in the presence of people and village life in general.

c. (Shay Connolly)

I had an hour to spend in Avoca village during the week. The weather was extremely cool for this time of year, and once the sun went in around six pm, a cold northerly wind was decidedly chilly.

Long tail, long wings (c.Shay Connolly)

I propped myself up on Avoca bridge, camera on shoulder and resisting the fine aromas and heat coming from nearby Hendleys Chipper on the corner (next time I will succumb to temptation!), got down to taking a few snaps. Kites were flying up and down the line of the Avoca river, directly into that cold, fresh wind, showing the great agility that they are renowned for, amazing in such a big winged bird. That flexibility is particularly noticeable in its long tail, constantly flexed and twisted like a rudder in flight. Kites, like Ravens in my opinion, seem to fly for fun and compete in aerial chases, with the bizarre cat call ‘wee-ooh, wee-ooh, wee-ooh, adding to the drama.

Tail twister (c.Oran O’Sullivan)

They are nearly a garden bird in this setting, and that close to human habitation that there must be local stories confirming their preference for decorating their nests with snatched or discarded items of clothing. Early reports of this behaviour are detailed in William Shakespeares The Winter Tale (act 4, scene 3): ‘my traffic is sheets; when the Kite builds, look to lesser linen’.
The modern, Wicklow take on this behaviour is the presence of a selection of ‘builders gloves’ in the already untidy nest. Long straggly lengths of bright blue baling twine complete the look.

Now, where did I leave those gloves? (c. Marc Ruddock)
  • 28th April 2017
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