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North Fingal





Photos by Shay Connolly.

After an absence of several hundred years, Red Kites are now gliding over the fields and woods across north County Dublin.  On the 26th of July Minister for the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D., released the first batch of Red Kites from aviaries in a secluded wood within Newbridge Demesne, near Donabate.


There were 26 young Red Kites, which were collected under licence from wild nests in Wales, released in the public park and a further 13 young Red Kites will be released shortly from a private location in north Fingal.


The Fingal Red Kite release programme is part of the final and fifth year of an ambitious project to re-establish Red Kites in Ireland.  The Golden Eagle Trust is managing the Fingal Red Kite project, which is funded by Fingal LEADER Partnership through the Rural Development Programme 2007 -2013 and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).  Fingal County Council and a private landowner are hosting and facilitating the two separate release cages.



The Golden Eagle Trust arranged for the collection of sufficient donor stock (young kites from wild Welsh nests) for both initial schemes in partnership with the Welsh Kite Trust.  As the County Down release project finished its release programme in 2010, this gave an opportunity to collect over 50 Welsh Red Kites for release in the Republic of Ireland this year.  In order to maximise the potential for an expanding Red Kite population in Ireland, it was decided to release 39 Red Kites in the Fingal area in 2011 and establish a satellite population half way between the Red Kite populations in County Wicklow and County Down. 


It is expected that the Fingal Red Kite project will be a welcome addition to the rich and varied natural heritage in Fingal and that sightings of the graceful and colourful Red Kite with will further enhance the local community’s appreciation of their nearby amenities and wildlife.


After releasing the Fingal Red Kites into the wild, Minister Deenihan said,”I am delighted to be here today at the red kite release, one of three projects underway as part of the programme to reintroduce native birds of prey to Ireland. The other two projects being the Golden Eagle Project in Donegal and the White Tailed Eagle Project in Kerry. All the kites released here today and also those released in Down and Wicklow over the years have been sourced in Wales from wild young kites. I wish to thank the Welsh Kite Trust for their support and co-operation in securing these young chicks. I have great hopes that the release of these red kites here today, will lead to a situation in a number of years where we will have a viable, sustainable and enjoyable population of red kites.” 


Mr Hans Visser, Biodiversity Officer, stated that the Fingal County Council are very happy to work with the Golden Eagle Trust and facilitate the Red Kite project at Newbridge Demesne and the restoration of this majestic bird to our countryside”. In addition to the support of the Fingal LEADER Partnership, Fingal County Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Fingal Red Kite project has been supported by representatives of the local Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and the National Association for Regional Game Councils (NARGC).  It is vital to build on these emerging links between wildlife interests and the farming and shooting community, during the course of the project and demonstrate that local wildlife can co-exist with modern farming and shooting practices. In particular the food for the kites was supplied by local members of the NARGC for which the project team are extremely grateful. The Fingal Conservation Volunteers, the Irish Raptor Study Group, AOL Big Help Day volunteers and members of the Fingal Birdwatch Ireland branch have also played a key role in rearing the birds and building the release cages. 


Apart from the consultation with all the key stakeholders in the Fingal area, the planning and arrival of the Red Kites was deliberately kept very low key.  Unlike the selection of previous reintroduction release sites, it was decided at the outset to release the birds in or near to busy public parks as possible, even though this may have run the risk of the birds being disturbed or found during the very sensitive captive phase.  The Golden Eagle Trust would like to reassure the people of Fingal that now that the birds have been released, we intend to open the Red Kite project up to the public and their local media as much as possible by regular media updates, educational activities, project website reports and public talks.  Hopefully, when and if the young Red Kite feeding patterns become predictable and could facilitate public viewing, we will organise and announce occasional Red Kite viewing events.


The 26 Red Kites In Newbridge Demesne that were collected from Welsh nests in mid June 2011, at about five weeks of age, have been reared and fed in specially designed wooden cages.  The birds were fed rabbits and crows through a small feeding hatch and sleeve in order to minimise any human contact and possible imprinting (whereby the birds associate humans with food).  All the birds were attached with a small radio transmitter, each with a unique frequency, and small PVC wing tags.  These devices allow the project team and the public to locate and identify each individual bird. As the birds gradually spread out across Fingal the public are asked to submit records to the project website at www.goldeneagle.ie, where they can follow regular updates of the Fingal kites.


North County Dublin and adjoining counties offers ideal Red Kite foraging and breeding habitat.  Red Kites primarily feed in farmland areas and nest in mature trees.  It is anticipated that the newly released kites will scavenge on a variety of carrion and catch mice, rats and young rabbits and a variety of birds, such as newly fledged crows or magpies.  Their diet will also include a surprising amount of invertebrates such as earthworms and beetles. 


Experience amongst the farming and shooting interests in Wales over the last century prove that the rather light weight kite is not a threat to livestock or game birds.  The varied farming systems and habitats in Fingal will enable the Red Kite to benefit from a variety of seasonal feeding opportunities during ploughing and harvesting at different times of the year.  The drier climate in Fingal may also benefit nesting Red Kites once they reach breeding age in 2013 or 2014.


The Red Kite Fingal Manager, Dr Marc Ruddock of the Golden Eagle Trust said, “the Red Kite is an incredible bird and the team effort undertaken by all our partners and volunteers in the collections, feeding, cage building and tagging of the kites is phenomenal and I express endless thanks to all those who have contributed to the project in bringing the Red Kite home to Dublin”.


It is hoped that the Red Kites may attract a growing number of Dublin residents since up to 500,000 visitors already visit Newbridge Demesne and other public parks annually in Fingal.  In addition, the latest Fáilte Ireland visitor surveys have highlighted the importance of Ireland’s Natural Image as a key ingredient in attracting foreign visitors.  Numerous Red Kite bones were recovered in excavations from the 11th century Wood Quay site on the River Liffey and noted in Phoenix Park during the 14th century.  We hope that the restoration of Red Kites in Newbridge, within 15km of Dublin city centre, is a further demonstration that Ireland is now rediscovering its ancient respect and cultural connection with the crucial role of nature in our everyday lives and society.

The Fingal Red Kite release project is part of an All-Ireland effort to restore Red Kites.  The Golden Eagle Trust (www.goldeneagle.ie) and NPWS began releasing Red Kites in County Wicklow in 2007 and subsequently the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) www.rspb.org.uk began releasing Red Kites in County Down in 2008.


The Golden Eagle Trust was founded in 1999, and is a registered charity dedicated to the conservation and restoration of Ireland’s native birds and their habitats, in particular declining, threatened, and extinct species. The Golden Eagle Trust manages reintroduction programmes for Golden Eagles in Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal, White-tailed Eagles in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry and Red Kites in Co. Wicklow, in partnership with the NPWS.




The Golden Eagle Trust’s main aim is to restore, enhance and maintain threatened and extinct native Irish bird species and their habitats through;


  • Creative and pro-active conservation management
  • Practical conservation research
  • Imaginative education and public awareness




From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Red Kite is 60–66 cm (24-27 in) long with a 175–195 cm wingspan; males have a weight of 800–1200 g, and females 1000–1300 g. It is an elegant bird, soaring with long wings held at a dihedral, and long forked tail twisting as it changes direction. The body, upper tail and wing coverts are rufous. The white primary flight feathers contrast with the black wing tips and dark secondaries. Apart from the weight difference, the sexes are similar, but juveniles have a buff breast and belly. The call is a thin piping, similar to but less mewling than the Common Buzzard.

Differences between adults and juveniles

Adults differ from juveniles in a number of characteristics:

  • Adults are overall more deeply rufous, compared with the more washed out colour of juveniles;
  • Adults have black breast-streaks whereas on juveniles these are pale;
  • Juveniles have a less deeply-forked tail, with a dark subterminal band;
  • Juveniles have pale tips to all of the greater-coverts (secondary and primary) on both the upper- and under-wings, forming a long narrow pale line; adults have pale fringes to upperwing secondary-coverts only.

These differences hold throughout most of the first year of a bird's life.


All images are copyright of Shay Connolly.