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Ringed red kite found in Carmarthenshire recorded as 26 years old

10 Oct 2023 4 minute read
The once endangered Red Kite has recently made a comeback in Wales

A red kite found injured in Carmarthenshire has been identified as the oldest ringed red kite to survive in the wild.

The unwell bird of prey was spotted by a Llanybydder homeowner back in July – who contacted the RSPCA after spotting that the bird had collapsed and was unable to fly.

RSPCA wildlife officer Ellie West was tasked to assess the bird who was monitored by the homeowner until collection.

“This was such a beautiful bird – and I could tell that it was an adult and of a good age,” she said.

“There were no avian influenza symptoms but I was immediately concerned about its thin body condition and poor plumage.

“Unfortunately due to the extent of the kite’s condition it meant that the bird could not be helped and was put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

“The bird wasn’t able to fully extend its wings at carpal joints and was showing signs of bumblefoot – along with other concerns meaning sadly rehabilitation wasn’t an option.”


Ellie reported the ring – which was a light green Darvic ring – to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

The BTO ringing schemes monitor bird populations, to provide information on how many young birds leave the nest and survive to become adults, as well as how many adults survive the stresses of breeding, migration and severe weather.

At the end of September the BTO responded to reveal that the bird had been ringed as a nestling on 20 June in 1997 and had survived 9,518 days and has further confirmed the red kite is the oldest known.

“I could not believe it as this bird was 26 years old – and was found in pretty much the same area they were ringed in all those years ago,” said Ellie.

“It is very sad that the bird didn’t make it but at least they didn’t suffer a lingering death. I’m sure they had a full life and it would be lovely to think that it may have reared several offspring over the years in the area too – although the sex is unknown.”

Ringed red kite Carmsarthenshire, October 2023

Longevity record

Confirming the significant age of the red kite, Lee Barber, Demographic Surveys Organiser at BTO said: “This red kite now holds the longevity record for the oldest known wild red kite in Britain and Ireland.

“Amazingly this is the first and only report of this bird in 26 years and 22 days since it was ringed as a nestling back in 1997.

“It’s brilliant when people take the time to report ringed birds, as it helps us to gain a greater understanding of bird populations across the UK. Had this bird not been wearing a ring we would have no indication at all that it had become the oldest known of its species, as once red kites have moulted out of their immature plumage they look pretty much identical irrespective of age.”

“Anyone can help monitor any bird they find wearing a ring, not just red kites, by reporting it to My colleagues at BTO will then get back to them with a life history of the bird they found.”

The RSPCA doesn’t advise handling birds due to bird flu, so members of the public are advised to only try and read the ring number if it can be done without touching the bird.

RSPCA animal rescue officer Ellie West examining a collared dove

This isn’t the first time Ellie (pictured above examining a collared dove) has come to the aid of a very old red kite as in 2014 she responded to a call after a red kite was grounded in the garden of an Aberaeron home.

Sadly the bird was emaciated and unable to fly and was put to sleep due to his condition.

Ellie made enquiries with the BTO who revealed that the bird had been registered as a chick in 1990 and was 23 years 7 months and 23 days old – and at the time was identified as the second oldest ringed bird to survive in the wild.

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