After near extinction, thousands of red kites now fly over British skies

In April, we shared a story about white-tailed eagles returning to England for the first time in more than 240 years. Then, just over a week ago, another conservation story out of England was published about plans to bring bison back to the UK for the first time in 6,000 years in order to regenerate natural lands around Kent.

Yes, it seems the reintroduction of endangered animal species to the UK is a hot topic right now, and that has everything to do with the successful reintroduction of red kites to the English skies thirty years ago. 

The red kite is an extraordinary bird of prey distinguished by its reddish-brown body and large angled wings, but centuries of persecution and egg-collecting decimated populations of this incredible bird, prompting conservationists to act. In 1990, they arranged for 13 red kites to be flown to England by a British Airways jet from Spain.

Thirty years on, nearly 2,000 breeding pairs of red kites display their distinctive forked tails as they soar over virtually every English county, in what has been hailed as one of the most successful reintroduction projects in the world.

According to Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, the government’s conservation watchdog, the success of the red kites has created “pretty strong momentum” for other reintroductions. Along with white-tailed eagles and European bison, other plans are already underway to return beavers and white storks to the British landscape.

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