Kite attack!


Photo: Thomas Kraft via Wikimedia commons
Photo: Thomas Kraft via Wikimedia commons

The Daily Mail is edited by Paul Dacre who owns a grouse moor.

Saturday saw a piece about a scourge of Red Kites attacking young girls and old ladies – men seem to be immune.  There is a serious issue here and that is that artificial feeding of Red Kites has made them less fearful of people and that does make it more likely that the occasional kid will be scratched by a brave Red Kite.  I think that Red Kite feeding may have become a bit excessive but that’s the free market for you!

I’d guess that Paul Dacre believes that we should largely be left to ourselves to act freely and that through allowing individuals to do their own thing the common good is achieved. I believe that we should largely be left to ourselves to act freely and that through allowing individuals to do their own thing sometimes society benefits and sometimes it doesn’t, it all depends.  And so The Daily Mail seems to blame the Red Kites, and gives air time to people who want them culled, and I would rather try to persuade people to be a bit more sparing in putting sirloin steak out for them in their gardens.  Freedom always carries with it responsibilities to ensure that doing your own thing doesn’t disadvantage others (at least too much, and at least unfairly).

I’m really not sure how big a problem Red Kite attacks are, although I can acknowledge the possibility that there have been a small number of misdemeanors on their part. There is a Red Kite over my Northants garden almost all the time and I never fear having a snooze out there and have failed to use kite-attack as an excuse not to hang out or collect in the washing (though maybe I’ll try it).  I am sure that the call of  a Red Kite, and then sight of it in a sky that has lacked it for well over a century, makes me happy.

The Daily Mail uses reintroduced Red Kites as an example of rewilding, which they really aren’t, and can find no-one better than Robin Page to say ‘I like red kites but I like one or two of them. To keep the population in balance, you should decide on a certain number and then dismantle their nests to control the population‘.  I have a feeling that Robin and the Daily Mail may feel the same about people too.  I imagine the Red Kites might have a case for saying that about people anyway.

So, it’s largely an anti-nature piece of writing but it has a breath-takingly inaccurate and gratuitous short paragraph on Hen Harriers too:

The protection of hen harriers on northern grouse moors has led to a decline not only in grouse numbers, but also in wild birds such as the golden plover, ring ouzel, wheatear, dunlin and lapwing.’.

Look out for the stories of kindly old gamekeepers being attacked by swarms of vicious Hen Harriers defending their nests when the kindly old gamekeeper was just looking out for the bird’s welfare.  In a week when we heard that England has bugger-all Hen Harriers (a technical term) the Daily Mail thinks we have too many of them.  Luckily, the Red Kite is not allowed to spread onto grouse moors otherwise all hell would break loose.

The Daily Mail is edited by Paul Dacre who owns a grouse moor.

This kite was found dead on a grouse moor by a member of the public who was out dog walking. The kite was found to have been poisoned by Carbofuran, a poisoned banned in Britain since 2002.
This kite was found dead on a grouse moor by a member of the public who was out dog walking. The kite was found to have been poisoned by Carbofuran, a poisoned banned in Britain since 2002.



32 Replies to “Kite attack!”

  1. I have felt for some time that the feeding of Red Kites, particularly at established feeding stations, is no longer necessary. There’s no doubt that it helped establish populations in the early days, but I suspect that it may now be limiting their natural distribution as the birds become over-reliant on such means.

    Robin Page was endorsing Brexit through his usual Telegraph rant on Saturday. Will you be writing about the Referendum in the next ten days, Mark?

  2. The Daily Mail: go to newspaper for bigotted, ill-informed views on just about any subject you care to mention.

  3. ‘‘The protection of hen harriers on northern grouse moors has led to a decline not only in grouse numbers, but also in wild birds such as the golden plover, ring ouzel, wheatear, dunlin and lapwing.’.
    This is inaccurate and breaches the Editors Code Of Practise.
    If anyone is savvy with complaining about this sort of thing it’s surely worth a go.

    1. The ECoP is toothless, and the Daily Mail knows it (and is partially responsible for ensuring it is that way so they can keep printing bullshit). Even if they do find against the old Daily Reich the worst that would happen is a teeny tiny page two “retraction” in the most weaselly technical language possible.

  4. Interesting that Radio 2 Jeremy Vine prog was running the same topic the other day. Looks a bit like more of the Countryfile theme of the grouse industry running a campaign on a broad front!

  5. Sadly but not too surprised, I haven’t noticed much media coverage of NT decision either, selective reporting again?

  6. I always find it interesting that we love lions which eat black people far away and tigers that eat brown people far away, but that some people have such difficulty putting up with the smallest inconvenience from wildlife that lives on *our* doorstep.

    Did the Daily Fascist cover the Cecil story?

  7. Kites can be amazingly bold in snatching titbits. I can remember being hot and bored by the side of a swimming pool in Luxor, and having my spirits raised by a Black Kite swooping down to grab something (definitely not a child!) from a poolside table.To the best of my knowledge nobody complained.

    It’s always this spoilt child wish to have things our own way that so demeans our species. Anybody who can afford a grouse moor and has a taste for shooting should regard him or herself as being just one more predator, no more important in the last word than a Hen Harrier, Red Fox or Adder.

    And finally, isn’t it frightening to read a story on a topic that you know and see the distortion, the suppression of counter-argument and the unbalanced use of pundits. It’s a warning to all of us to read and re-read any news story before believing its contents.

  8. I am complaining to IPSO. Does anyone know – was this article published in print or just online?

    1. It is in print in the Mail on Saturday. A full page article with a big ‘scary’ photo of a red kite. My mum buys the Mail on Saturday for the weekly TV magazine, but she remains socially minded and is voting IN for the referendum. She believes the oldies should consider the young people and their future more and not be so selfish and self-righteous.
      I continue to be shocked by the lies perpetrated in our newspapers daily, does it reflect the minds and desires of our population at large, they buy the crap.? Having spent time in Spain recently it is refreshing to see how their newspapers are generally serious in-depth publications, free of celebrity rubbish and right-wing propaganda. Their Society seems more mature and healthier than ours, despite high levels of political corruption. Public services seem well funded (despite their economy being in dept) and Socialism is seen as desirable and for the common good and worth paying for.
      I believe the EU in many ways waters down our worse excesses and civilizes our Society with it’s red-tape and regulations, it is not perfect but far better than the prospect of an even more right-wing Government in power if Britain votes leave. Please don’t.

      1. Quite agree, Barry – even if I weren’t a Spanish teacher who – apart from the bull fiestas, really loves Spain – I’d still be voting Remain.

        Let’s stay in the EU. There is far too much division in the world, let’s work together for our sakes and for the sake of other creatures and this endangered planet.

  9. I read something recently about Black Kites in Australia deliberately picking up burning sticks from bush fires and using them to start new fires so that they could feed on the prey flushed out as a result. Not sure I believe they do it deliberately but with all those thatched rooves in the Chilterns it might make a good story, presuming that Red Kites can learn the same trick.

    Changing the subject, I wouldn’t mind betting that the bird which results in the most injuries in lowland England is the Pheasant through the large numbers of daft, newly-released birds spilling across country lanes in late summer.

    1. The pheasants should be tagged/ringed then when they cause a road traffic accident any injured party can claim against the owner/shooting syndicate who released them. Accountability, oops not in their ‘honourable’ code(s)?

      Complain then don’t give the rag any more publicity. It is distractive and we must continue with our own focus ‘educational’ campaign through options which print/report honest & truthful information.

  10. Interestingly the readers comments are actually more sensible than the article. Basically saying, stop feeding them and they will go away,no need for any sort of cull, get a grip.

  11. And, IC, is probably more responsible than anything else for the increase in both Kites and Buzzards, as Pheasants may well have replaced rabbits as the most frequent carrion in the lowlands. So if you want fewer Kites and buzzards, release less Pheasants. Bet that’ll go down well with CA. But it is just simple ecology. But,sorry, I know its wrong to muddy the waters of a good Daily mail rant with grubby science.

  12. Paul Dacre is nothing more than a rabble-rouser, and his so-called ‘news’ paper contains about as much actual news as the Beano. It’s sad that such a large part of the population proves itself to be a rabble by buying it and the other publications of its ilk. Se really need some sort of law that demands anything published as fact in a paper is supported by references, and opinion pieces are clearly labelled as such.

    Having said that, I agree that it is time for any Red Kite feeding programme that still exists to be wound down. The birds are a delight to see but are around in numbers that would seem to indicate that they can survive on their own and find their own natural place in our avian ecology. If such programmes still exist then they may well now be hampering the natural spread of the species, which itself would tend to mitigate any kite/human interaction.

  13. Complaint submitted to IPSO as follows:

    This article contained the following misleading and/or inaccurate statements:

    “An increase in just one species, such as the red kite, can bring a decline in various populations of farmland birds, such as skylarks.”

    This assertion is unsupported by any evidence and is malicious conjecture with an anti-predator agenda, coincidentally in line with the editor of this paper’s personal and financial interests as an owner of a grouse moor where predators can impact on the so-called “shootable surplus” of birds and hence the profitability of a managed moor. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that the partial recovery of localised red kite populations in the UK has contributed to the national (or indeed international) decline of skylarks. There is on the other hand a long established scientific consensus that agricultural intensification (not mentioned at all by this article) is the principle driver for the skylark’s (and other farmland bird species) decline (see: pages 22-27).

    “The protection of hen harriers on northern grouse moors has led to a decline not only in grouse numbers, but also in wild birds such as the golden plover, ring ouzel, wheatear, dunlin and lapwing.”

    “Has lead”? Not even “may have lead”, in an attempt to add some useful ambiguity? The author clearly has no fear of being contradicted in his ill-informed assertions, but again there is no evidence whatsoever for this wildly inaccurate claim and unsurprisingly this (deliberately?) misleading statement is unsupported by any reference or evidence. In fact hen harriers are largely absent from England’s moorlands such that where different studies have revealed sufficient habitat to support between 232 and 340 pairs of hen harriers ( page 39) there were in 2013 precisely ZERO breeding pairs recorded, and with the situation little improved since then DEFRA have felt the need to formulate an Action Plan to reverse this decline (

    That this Daily Mail article feels motivated to blame a species demonstrably on the verge of local extinction for an alleged decline in red grouse beggars belief, but this falsification is promulgated here despite the reality that grouse numbers have been stable on many English moorlands in recent years while declines elsewhere have been linked principally to loss of heather habitat (due to over-grazing by sheep and conversion to forestry – this latter being no bad thing in combating the flood risk generated by unnaturally managed grouse moor!) and diseases such as louping ill and strongylosis.

    That a population such as that of the red grouse, one that is largely freed from natural predation and intensively managed to achieve extraordinarily high and unnatural densities, becomes subject to disease outbreaks will be of no surprise to anyone of passing ecological literacy, but the author of this article still saw fit to blame a natural predator of red grouse that has already been persecuted to vanishing point! Similarly there is no evidence that declines in the other bird species mentioned have been brought about by the few remaining hen harriers, but instead the scientific consensus is clear that habitat loss and agricultural intensification have principally precipitated the sad declines in most of these species, while the cause of ring ouzel’s decline remains an area under investigation (, but while climate change, human hunting and habitat change are all in the frame, hen harriers aren’t!

    To be clear, hen harriers can and have impacted on some red grouse populations by eating the “shootable surplus” of birds which some people would like to shoot – but (and this is the key point) that is very different from causing a population decline and a decrease in overall numbers. The population can remain stable from year to year, or even grow as demonstrated by the Langholm Moor project, in the presence of predators (as is only natural), it just cannot at the same time support the enormous off takes that driven grouse shooting (as enjoyed by this paper’s editor) wishes to harvest from the population by shooting hundreds of birds in a day.

    “The 40,000 pairs of protected sparrowhawks in the country are estimated to get through 2,166 tons of wild birds a year – the equivalent of 88.2 million sparrows.”

    This statement is misleading in implying that by eating birds sparrowhawks are harmfully impacting on wild bird populations and fails to understand yet again that predators have always eaten prey and yet do not, in the normal run of events, as a consequence of this diet bring about the extinction of their food source. To do so would seem a remarkably unsustainable strategy most commonly observable amongst humans rather than any other member of this planet’s predator guild. In what is claimed to be the largest study on this subject ( the overall conclusion was that “whilst a small number of associations may suggest significant negative effects between predator and prey species, for the majority of the songbird species examined there is no evidence that increases in common avian predators or grey squirrels are associated with large-scale population declines”. Furthermore no conclusive link was established in this study between predation and prey species decline, even in those instances where a negative association between particular species was observed, with the authors merely highlighting these cases as being worthy of further investigation in case these correlations revealed any real causative effect. Much other research has been more definite, showing either no significant relationship between predator incidence and prey numbers (e.g. Newton et al. 1997, Thomson et al. 1998), or concluding that increased predation-related mortality accounts only for an already “doomed surplus” among songbird populations (Tucker and Galbraith 2000, Newton 2004, Gibbons et al. 2007), since not all offspring can ever survive in a stable population.

    “Even seagulls remain protected, further contributing to their rising numbers and widespread complaints about gull attacks.”

    This last statement is remarkable for its ignorance as well as its inaccuracy. There is of course no such thing as a seagull. There are instead numerous species of gulls which may be found the UK and all seven species which breed in the UK are of conservation concern. While there has been an increase in the number of urban gulls, in direct contradiction of the misleading picture painted by the Daily Mail almost all of these species are in fact not rising in their overall numbers, but are instead in dramatic decline! The herring gull is now red listed by the IUCN and the other gull species all amber listed with the solitary exception of the Mediterranean gull. These declines are thought to be linked to changes in the maritime environment linked to over-fishing and climate change, but are little helped by the lies disseminated by such ignorant reporting as demonstrated in this article.

    I would encourage IPSO to require the Daily Mail to publish a retraction of these multiple errors. This is an important issue because the lies, fallacies and half-truths presented in this article relate to a wider debate in the UK about how our countryside should fundamentally be and this article constitutes propaganda on behalf of those individuals who I feel happy to characterise as being broadly anti-nature, to the great detriment of the wider public for whom the natural world is a source of relaxation, inspiration and wonder.

    1. Hugh – damn you’re good at those! Well done – beat me to it.

      IPSO will ask if you have complained to the paper and what they said (cos I’ve done this before too!).

      1. Thanks Mark, but don’t let me stop you (or anyone else) adding to what will I hope be a public backlash from as many complainants as possible.

        For the record IPSO (as I understand them) do not require that you complain to the paper first, but merely ask you to clarify (by ticking a box) whether you have or not. I see little point in complaining to the papers first as they routinely ignore such complaints unless received via IPSO, in which case we may get the satisfaction of a mealy-mouthed retraction and who knows, perhaps this journalist will actually pause and even do some research next time before they print this sort of drivel.

    2. Cheers Mr W. Couldn’t have put it better myself….(hence earlier request.)


    3. “There is of course no such thing as a seagull”

      By the same token there is no such thing as a sardine but if there were they would rarely be caught by trawlers

  14. I must admit that in this ever changing world, I do derive some small comfort from the fact that the Daily Mosley is still as full of nonsensical middle-English bile as it ever was, although only just the one reference to ‘political correctness’ is a tad disconcerting.

    Funny that the gamekeeper didn’t wish to be named – could that perhaps explained because he doesn’t actually exist?

  15. Sad thing is the same paper printed a similar story last year but that time it involved men at RAF Benson (genuine problem) and boys having their crisps stolen. RAF Benson is having issues with kites when their planes come into land and actually were the originals calling for a cull.
    Truth is kites thanks to human feeding have changed their behaviour as you pointed out eg I get out my truck at one particular stop and kites are swishing inches past me and I’m able to walk past individuals feet away last. I love it as do the regulars at the truck stop, cull Red Kites? Good luck.

  16. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but here goes…. I have actually just been cheered up by reading the comments on a Mail Online piece!

    I decided to add my own comment, because such I can’t bear to let such BS slide. Then, out of curiosity, I checked out the ‘top rated comments’. I expected loads of ‘cull them, slaughter them, they will take our children’, etc. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

    All of the top comments, upvoted by hundreds of people, were denouncing the story as the scaremongering drivel it is and pointing to the blatantly obvious solution of not feeding the kites if you don’t want to encourage them to get too close.

    Perhaps people aren’t actually as daft as the Daily Mail think they are! How marvellous.

  17. I get fed up with these animal attack people articles. How many animals are killed or generally suffer at the hands of people each day ?
    No doubt all will remember killer seagulls on the loose a few months ago

  18. Of course, with all this furore over the Daily Mail article, what is never acknowledged either, is that though raptors are strikingly beautiful, and capture the imagination in a way that other LBJ’s (little brown jobs) don’t, they can cause great damage to these other less exciting species, which might be struggling for whatever reason and just happen to be an easy prey. The lovely turtle dove, is declining at a terrible rate because of loss of habitat and several other reasons and it only needs relatively small levels of predation on Turtle doves by un-controlled numbers of other species such as domestic cats, sparrowhawks, and magpies , to be the final straw that would spell the end of this bird in England. Is that just too bad or might we consider some sort of re-balancing of the various populations since we caused the unbalancing in the first place ? Game keepers and pesticides might have nearly wiped out our raptors in the last century, but now they are fully protected and have nothing to keep their numbers down, so should the RSPCB and other groups be encouraging the exponential growth of Red Kites, and Buzzards , for example, through feeding stations when this in itself is now distorting our natural habitat and environment in almost exactly the same way as the shooting fraternity who put down game birds, and feed them etc. We cannot re-introduce Turtle doves, Larks, Thrushes or Lapwings we can only try and create an environment in which they might once again flourish. The control of their predators should not be excluded from this debate because, like uncontrolled immigration, nobody wants to acknowledge that there just might be a problem here, and in the Turtle Dove’s case a big problem from Sparrowhawks, Carrion Crows and Magpies.

Comments are closed.