Berkshire

Red kites flourishing in Reading because people feed them, study finds

Injured Red Kite Image copyright North Yorkshire Police
Image caption The birds were re-introduced in 1989 after having been absent in England and Scotland for almost 100 years.

Red kites are increasing in number because people are feeding them in their back gardens, a university study has found.

Professor of Ecology Mark Fellowes said Reading and the surrounding Chilterns area were a "benign environment" for the birds.

The birds were re-introduced in 1989 after having been absent in England and Scotland for almost 100 years.

In parts of the world, they are at risk of being shot by farmers.

Professor Fellowes, of the University of Reading, said: "Driving through the suburbs, it's not unusual to see 20 red kites circling over a house, because people are feeding them.

"There's no need to feed them, there's plenty of road kill out there, but I understand why people do it as they are such magnificent creatures up close."

Image copyright Dean Bricknell
Image caption Red kites have the highest degree of legal protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Professor Fellowes has been carrying out research over the past year in Reading, surveying 1,000 households.

He found people were feeding the birds either raw chicken or meat.

A previous study in 2012 by Professor Fellowes and Dr Mel Orros found just over 4% of households were feeding the birds.

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