Red Kites (Latin name) Milvus milvus
Red kites are easy to identify, with their wide wingspan of just under 2 metres, colourful reddish-brown plumage and distinctive, deeply forked tail which it uses as a rudder. The Anglo-Saxon name for red kite was ‘gled’ from where we now get the word ‘glide’.
Red kites are now living throughout the Derwent Valley and are often seen soaring gracefully over fields looking for food which is mainly dead animals. They occasionally eat beetles and worms when food is scarce in the winter months. They can also be spotted chasing each other in flight or perched in trees.
The adults refurbish an old nest or make a new one up high in mature trees. The nests are big and untidy. The kites have an eye for white and often adorn the nest with sheep’s wool. Other examples of white objects found in a kite’s nest include an English football flag, a skipping rope, a sock, a cuddly toy and even a pair of men’s underpants!
In medieval times when people did their washing in rivers and left it to dry on the rocks, the kites would swoop down and steal the white linen. There is a quote in Shakespeare’s ‘A Winter’s Tale’ – “When the red kite builds, look to your lesser linen”.