Photo: Paul Danielson
Red kites are communal roosting birds which is rare with raptors. Outside of the breeding season they gather at dusk and spend the night together in a loose group. Roosts are formed in the early autumn and as winter approaches more and more birds join the roost as the desire to stay on territory is lessened by the advent of shorter days and harder weather. Main roost sights are used year after year but smaller satellite roosts are often formed. The two main roost sights in Gateshead’s Derwent Valley are the Gibside Estate, Rowlands Gill and Pontburn Wood near Hamsterley Mill and these roosts can hold 40 + birds.
Why do kites form communal roosts? There are several possible reasons:
· Red Kites are sociable birds and enjoy the company of other kites outside the breeding season. A lot of calling, wheeling and chasing can be observed at the pre-roost.
· To find a partner – juveniles are “introduced” to the roost by their parents in early autumn and failed breeders, who might be looking for a new mate, have also been noted.
· To find food – kites that leave the roost very early in the morning are often followed by other kites which might be thinking that they are returning to a food source visited the previous day.
Annual roosting summaries and National Roost Counts can be viewed by “clicking” on the links below