MORE than thirty years ago, Spain sent red kites to the UK to boost a population that was on the verge of extinction. The reintroduction programme was so successful that now Britain is returning the favour.
Early this month 30 young red kites, known as Milanos, Reales in Spanish were flown into Extremadura from England on a mission to help rescue the dwindling Spanish population.
They are likely to be the descendants of wild red kites collected in Spain in the 1990s that were sent for release in the Chiltern Hills after Britain’s own population was reduced to a mere handful of breeding pairs in one isolated spot in Wales.
The conservation programme has been so successful that the birds (Milvus milvus) are now a common sight soaring over gardens in the Home Counties with their reddish tones, forked tails and distinctive mewing cries.
It is estimated that there are currently between 4,000 and 6,000 breeding pairs in the UK.
However, in Spain they have fared less well and there are only 11 breeding pairs in Cacares province and just four within Badajoz.
It is hoped that the new arrivals will boost the wild population in Extremadura and Andalucia with the same success as the British programme.
On June 13, the first batch of 15 fledgling birds arrived at the Accion por el Mundo Salvaje (Amus) centre where they will acclimatise aviaries until they are ready for release after about three weeks.
The birds will be fitted with the latest technology to monitor their adaption into their new habitat.
Another 15 will arrive at the end of June and thirty more will be sent over each June for the next two years.
The Project brings together conservations in the UK and Spain under the LIFE Eurokite project.