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Red Kite UK influx

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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 16:35   #1
wolfbirder
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Red Kite UK influx

64 in Cornwall today, in 3 different flocks, and 7 along Kent coast.

Is this unusual?
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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 17:05   #2
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It's an annual thing in Cornwall around this time of year (May/June), with large numbers having already hit West Cornwall a week or two back, and then lower numbers reported filtering eastward.

Don't know if it's ever been proven, but it's thought they are non-breeding birds from the Welsh population (or English population - although that doesn't really explain why they turn up in W Cornwall first) doing a wander around as opposed to coming up from the continent. (Occasional Black Kite and Honey Buzzard have also sometimes been reported at same time, which could be coincidence, or evidence of an alternative origin)

Think it's a relatively recent phenomenon (last decade or so).
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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 17:28   #3
Farnboro John
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Don't know if it's ever been proven, but it's thought they are non-breeding birds from the Welsh population (or English population - although that doesn't really explain why they turn up in W Cornwall first) doing a wander around as opposed to coming up from the continent. (Occasional Black Kite and Honey Buzzard have also sometimes been reported at same time, which could be coincidence, or evidence of an alternative origin)

Think it's a relatively recent phenomenon (last decade or so).
It's not thought by everybody. IMO the idea makes no more sense than the suggestion that the large numbers of Woodpigeons seen crossing the UK each autumn and then coasting West are the annual British Woodpigeon convention (a quick wander round and then back - to expire within five km of home as proven by ringing data) and not migration from Scandinavia. Of course the kites are continental birds migrating.

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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 19:16   #4
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Interesting.
I would have thought they would be migrating birds from the Continent, it makes more sense but who knows. Are'nt the bulk of established birds in the UK fairly sedentary?
Appreciate both your thoughts.
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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 20:49   #5
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I was perhaps misremembering my thoughts on where these birds come from - agreed the Welsh population may not be the source as I believe they were fairly sedentary, even with feeding programs there.

From Cornwall County bird reports -

2004 - The county mainland total is now c. 236 since 1966. There were thirty-one records this year (22 in May/June), following on from last year's exceptional passage of sixty-eight birds, whereas there was an average of only five birds per annum during the 1990's.
2006 - c20 birds May-June, maximum one site in W Cornwall 18. 1 bird seen with yellow and red wing tags tagged in C Scotland in 2004)
Then maxima -
2011 - 128 in June
2012 - 71 in May
2013 - 68 in JUne
2014 - 122 in May
2015 - 450 in May, 350 in June
2016 - 400 in May

Far and away the big day totals are at the very extreme Western tip of the county, with other records tending to spread patchily elsewhere eastward, often a couple days later. All other months in the above 6 years they remain generally uncommon - eg only 23 other records for the remaining 10 months of the year in 2016, 12 of those in April)

(These are the only reports I've looked at so far)

I'm not particularly aware of a late spring passage through eg France, which is where you'd expect them to be coming from. I seem to remember them becoming mobile and moving through S France in Feb, before the Black Kites even. If they are English/Scottish birds then perhaps they are passing through unseen until they hit Lands End and have to turn back? Smaller numbers in eg Kent too could be hitting the coast.

As I say, I think it's not completely proven, but there seems to be a thinking in Cornwall generally that they are not continental in origin, and records are coinciding with the reintroduction program having started.

Evidence against this would presumably have to start with a noting of records along the Atlantic seaboard/Channel Islands at this time of year, and noting a strong general passage at other European migration points in May/June along with changes in migration pattern/ population size or distributions over the last two decades or so.
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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 21:16   #6
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Originally Posted by Farnboro John View Post
It's not thought by everybody. IMO the idea makes no more sense than the suggestion that the large numbers of Woodpigeons seen crossing the UK each autumn and then coasting West are the annual British Woodpigeon convention (a quick wander round and then back - to expire within five km of home as proven by ringing data) and not migration from Scandinavia. Of course the kites are continental birds migrating.

John
Agree on the Woodpigeons, but not here - the Continent hasn't seen the recent population increase seen in the UK as a whole and coincidentally in this annual influx. The paucity of associated Black Kites etc., also suggests more likely UK origin.

Any wing-tagged birds among them that might shed some further light?
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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 21:52   #7
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Agree on the Woodpigeons, but not here - the Continent hasn't seen the recent population increase seen in the UK as a whole and coincidentally in this annual influx. The paucity of associated Black Kites etc., also suggests more likely UK origin.

Any wing-tagged birds among them that might shed some further light?
See 2004 in my post above. Are they still regularly wing-tagging birds, or has that largely stopped now?
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Old Wednesday 22nd May 2019, 22:24   #8
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How many of those years had any associated Black Kites? There were quite a few in 2011 IIRC, I rather think they bred and then at least one wandered around Scilly in October. Not, one assumes, from the Welsh/English population......

I notice Kent had 44 the other day, presumably of similar origin to these Cornwall birds: personally I would hypothesise continental origin for those as well, not least because it tends to imply these influxes are flocks and not individuals dribbling down to only be noticed when they aggregate at a chokepoint. Variations year to year as likely to be due to weather as anything else.

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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 06:40   #9
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Very few Black Kites in the actual flocks afaik.

The 2011 trio (ad, presumed 2 juv?) did visit Scilly in Oct, yes.

Bird Reports - Black Kites Cornwall

2011 - Total 9 records Apr - Oct (0 in May, 1 in June)
2012 - Total 1 record April
2013 - Total 3 - 1 May, 2 July, 2 Aug
2014 - Total 6-8; 4-6 May - Porthgwarra and area, mixed with Red Kites, 1 - Sept
2015 - Total 3 - 1 May, 1 July, 1 Aug
2016 - Total 10 - 1 Mar, 9 records May but thought to be 2 wide ranging birds.

2014 only year Black Kites could be specifically associated?
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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 08:25   #10
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If they are English/Scottish birds then perhaps they are passing through unseen until they hit Lands End and have to turn back? Smaller numbers in eg Kent too could be hitting the coast
That fits in well with the phenomenon of autumn raptors arriving and turning back at Sagres (southwest tip of Portugal). Pretty strange is the idea of southward moving birds in the spring. Also, aren't Red Kites avoiding sea crossings, at least in groups, altogether?
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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 09:08   #11
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0 records of Red Kite from Portland Bird Obs as far as I can make out from their website this May.

It is all a bit odd, but why would Red Kites be crossing the channel at the widest point in May in order to get to Scandinavia? - it isn't as if they are headed off to Iceland like Whimbrel or White Wags. Can't see any association with Honey Buzzards btw.
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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 10:12   #12
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About 30 reported so far on www.devonbirds.org, mostly from 14th-17th May, all parts of the county.
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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 13:45   #13
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Interesting.

I recall seeing c30 2nd-calendar year Red Kites once at Uwchmynydd on the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula, Gwynedd in late May or early June. I’d always see smaller numbers around this time but that passage was exceptional. Always associated with settled weather, south/easterlies and a sprinkle of scarce migrants (birds and Lepidoptera) if I was lucky.

I often wondered if Continental birds were involved and was always intrigued by the high counts in SW England around the same time. Welsh population is expanding rapidly with new territories being established year on year so many youngsters are obviously looking around, but the sheer numbers make me think they may have travelled even further.
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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 16:29   #14
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Welsh population is expanding rapidly with new territories being established year on year so many youngsters are obviously looking around, but the sheer numbers make me think they may have travelled even further.
There were already reckoned to be a thousand pairs of Red Kites in Wales in 2011 (Brit. Birds 107: 523 - just before the species was dropped from the Rare Breeding Birds Panel). 30 youngsters could be from just 20-30 nests; a pretty small proportion of the total. So no need to look further afield

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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 17:03   #15
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That fits in well with the phenomenon of autumn raptors arriving and turning back at Sagres (southwest tip of Portugal). Pretty strange is the idea of southward moving birds in the spring. Also, aren't Red Kites avoiding sea crossings, at least in groups, altogether?
I also have difficulty with Red Kites (or any raptor) moving SW in spring.

However, here's a theory that might satisfy everybody:

What if the British population have become partially migratory? That would explain them arriving deliberately in the SW after a migration from say Iberia.

It would also explain what nobody has mentioned yet, that birds are seen across the SW moving into the British hinterland after the big arrivals but not before: so that there is no evidence of birds moving SW into the Cornish peninsula whereas observers are catching them on the way out afterwards.

I still can't account for them crossing the sea except to point out that would be the most direct route to Iberia, ought to be within their capability and I think a lot of people grossly underestimate the capacity of raptors to cross water.

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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 19:07   #16
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Ian Carter covers it a bit in his Red Kite book.

Dispersal of wing-tagged birds from reintroduced populations is high in Apr-May and the peak of spring 'passage' in the UK now is Apr/May whereas it was March prior to re-introductions and recovery of the Welsh population. Early spring (March) is more typical of 'natural' migration of red kites returning to breeding areas.

The conclusion was that some continental birds were involved but the majority are likely to be UK bred. Given it's based on dispersal rather than true migration, movements can be in any direction. Large numbers of kites are going to be far more noticeable in certain coastal areas without no or small kite breeding populations rather than Central England or Wales these days. Note a lot of these birds will be wandering immature/non-breeders - most kites don't breed till 2-3yrs old.

The origin of the released reintroduced birds is mixed so they had differing migration/dispersal tendencies, Spanish (dispersive), Swedish (most migratory), German (partial migrants), which will be all a bit melded together now.

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Old Thursday 23rd May 2019, 21:18   #17
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Given it's based on dispersal rather than true migration, movements can be in any direction.
They don't come northeast much if at all - but that's hardly surprising as if they do, they run into a barrage of gunfire and poison
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Old Saturday 25th May 2019, 06:06   #18
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You would think our original stock would be sedentary and they were so inbred and sedentary they never moved anywhere but the range of the introduced birds is such that anything might happen despite so-called ‘imprinting’.

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