BIRD watchers have warned RAF Benson will get no benefit from shooting red kites out of the sky.

The military helicopter air base has said it may need to kill some of the birds of prey for safety reasons after two flew into aircraft in the past two months.

The base got permission to kill the birds from Natural England in June last year. But experts have said more of the birds will come and replace any killed.

Ian Lewington, Oxford Ornithological Society’s bird recorder for the county, said: “If it is that much of a problem they have to get rid of all of them. You cannot just get rid of two of them.

“It is a void – it will be filled. They are opportunist, that is why they are so successful.”

Between 1989 and 1994, 93 fledgling kites were released in the Chilterns where the birds had been hunted to extinction.

It is thought there are now more than 1,000 pairs in the area.

Tom Stevenson, chairman of Benson Ecological Study Team, also said more of the birds would come if any where killed.

The 73-year-old, of Westfield Road, Benson, added: “Obviously we are concerned about the safety of aircraft. But I do worry a little bit about whether they have gone over the top.”

Natural England issued the RAF base a licence last year so it could kill red kites for flight safety purposes.

Red kites have hit helicopters at the base four times in the past three years – two of which have happened in the past two months.

Wing Commander Colin West, the officer commanding operations wing at RAF Benson, said: “Thankfully to date, we have not used it and we hope that we don’t have to.

“However, a growing number of bird strikes, coupled with the size and nature of the red kite, mean that the threat to aircraft safety at RAF Benson has increased.”

The base is urging local people not to feed the birds as it draws them to the area.

In a letter sent to villagers last month, the base, RSPB, and Natural England, said: “We want to ensure the future of the red kites around RAF Benson, but we have to put the safety of the aircrews and the surrounding human population first.

“In order to help us protect both people and kites, please do not feed red kites in your garden and please encourage your friends and neighbours to help and do the same.”

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