Forestry and Red Kites in Wales
Abstract from the Journal of Applied Ecology
22nd July 1996
Fifty years ago the birdwatchers concerned with Red Kites (and there were not many of them) must have been very despairing of their continued survival in Wales. There were only seven pairs left! By 1993 there were 113 breeding pairs and, of course, further non-breeding birds.
In a comprehensive paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology (33, 210-224) Ian Newton, Peter Davis and Dorian Moss use the detailed records available of the habitats used by the kites over the period 1946 - 1993 to assess what they need.
In particular they wanted to determine, once and for all, whether the perceived wisdom that the conifer afforestation of upland Wales was bad for Red Kites. They do not use conifer areas for foraging but prefer open areas.
Trying several different analyses they were unable to show any detrimental effect of forestry operations at their current level. No effects could be shown on the gross distribution, on numbers or on breeding performance.
The birds seemed to need remnants of the native woodland - mainly oaks - to nest in but there have been nests found in conifers planted originally in plantations.
These are big birds and they also looked at the data to see whether the highest densities of birds (up to 13 pairs per 5-km square) compared with low density nesting. There were no effects.
Taken in conjunction with the excellent results from the re-introduction programme in England and Scotland, this could mean that the potential breeding population of this magnificent bird in Britain might be far in excess of 10,000 pairs. This is would be more than in their current stronghold - Spain.