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12. The Return of the Red Kite (Barstobrick Visitor Centre)
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|Location||Fellend Farm Ringford Castle Douglas Dumfries and Galloway DG7 2AU 01557 820227|
| The Return of the Red Kite|
Once our most common bird of prey
Historically, the red kite was perhaps our most widespread bird of prey. In mediaeval times, it fed in city streets, being given special protection for its useful street cleaning role! In fact, both kites and ravens were protected in England and Wales (not Scotland) and harming them was a hanging offence!
From the 16th century, new underground sewers made food scarcer to find. Kites became increasingly bold and stole food from people. In England and Wales, their legal protection was lifted in 1566, allowing people to control them throughout Britain.
The Victorian era
By the 19th century, shooting had become popular and keepers were employed to preserve game stocks. Like other predators, kites were considered “vermin” and faced ruthless persecution, though in fact they were little or no threat to game.
Their fearless habits made them easy targets for trapping, shooting or poisoning. Kites were becoming increasingly rare at the time when Neilson’s Monument was built.
Brink of Extinction
Kites became extinct in England and Scotland in the 1870s. The last pair in Dumfries & Galloway bred near Moniaive around 1870. A tiny population, as few as 20 kites, remained in mid-Wales, where they were finally given legal protection in 1903.
The reintroduction of kites to several areas in the UK is a wonderful success story and is testimony to the change in attitude towards birds of prey in modern times. Indeed, many local gamekeepers and farmers have given considerable support to the project in various ways.