Of the fourteen species of raptors which breed in Britain, probably none holds more magic for the birdwatcher than the Red Kite Milvus milvus. This may be partly due to the bird's distinctive shape and coloration, but is probably more a reflection of the 70-year fight to save the remnant population of a species which was once one of our most widespread raptors, feeding even in the streets of London. This saga has been admirably documented by Colonel H. Morrey Salmon in a 13-page essay on 'The Red Kites of Wales: the story of their preservation' in Welsh Wildlife in Trust edited by W. S. Lacey (1970). But it seems opportune to summarise the main stages here as a tribute to the largely unsung work of the successive 'Kite Committees' and as a prelude to the remarkable study of the species, by P. Walters Davies and P. E. Davis, which is being published in this issue of British Birds and the next. The story began in February 1903 when Professor J. H. Salter, of Aberystwyth, wrote a letter which was read at a meeting of the British Ornithologists' Club. Its aim was to enlist support for the protection of the Welsh Kites and it resulted in the formation of the first 'Kite Committee', the founder members of which were J. L. Bonhote, W. E. de Winton, E. G. B. Meade-Waldo, the Honourable W. Rothschild, Howard Saunders and Watkin Watkins, later joined by other distinguished names.

Volume: 
Issue 5
Start Page: 
181
Display Image: 

Stay at the forefront of British birding by taking out a subscription to British Birds.

Subscribe Now