BIRD watchers have been asked to stop feeding Red Kites because the creatures have become too successful in Oxfordshire.
Snatching fledglings out of nests, chasing smaller birds for food and hovering in an “intimidating” way over homes and gardens, conservation groups have said the once-rare species may have become reliant on food left out by its admirers.
Hunted almost to extinction by farmers and poisoned by pesticides, the Red Kite was brought back from the brink of extinction when 93 were introduced into the Chilterns in 1989.
The Chilterns Conservation Board now estimates there are 1,000 breeding pairs in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But the board and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) say they are receiving a growing number of calls from worried residents about the large raptors swooping down on garden bird tables and school playgrounds.
THE Chilterns conservation project has been such a success that the UK now has about eight per cent of the global population
In the bird’s former strongholds in Germany, France and Spain, kites are rapidly declining, mainly due to continued use of illegal poisons and land use changes.
Like many birds of prey, they were heavily persecuted in the UK until they were almost extinct, with just a few pairs left in Welsh valleys.
Cathy Rose, of the Chilterns Conservation Board, said: “People are worried they are scaring away garden birds and coming worryingly close to pets.
“They are mainly scavengers but they can kill mice and rats, things of that size.”
She said the largest animal she had heard of being taken by a kite was a squirrel.
She said people were leaving out raw meat like chicken, and some bird lovers were even buying meat especially for kites.
She added that the board had been urging people not to feed them for several years but added: “People are ignoring the advice and every year the number of complaints rises.”
RSPB member Lyn Ebbs backed the appeal and said Red Kites had been seen taking fledgling lapwings out of their nests at the society’s Otmoor reserve, where a programme is attempting to revive the endangered species.
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