Red Kites - Milvus Milvus
Red kites are a chestnut red with striking white patches under the wings and a pale grey head. Viewed from above, a broad white crescent curves across the inner part of the wings, but it is the underside that produces the most startling image.
The head is equipped with hooded amber eyes ringed with lemon yellow. The beak, wickedly hooked and very sharp, is designed for tearing meat and killing small prey animals.
It has a wingspan of nearly two metres, but a relatively small body weight of 2 - 3 Ibs. This means the bird is incredibly agile, and can stay in the air for many hours with hardly a beat of its wings.
The Kite has excellent eye sight and uses this when over flying the countryside in search of food.
The long fingered primary feathers are white with black tips and being bordered by chestnut coverts and dark grey secondaries give the dazzling patches of contrast seen in every kite.
The legs and feet are bright yellow and can often be seen when the bird is in flight. Unlike the buzzard, it is usually silent while hunting, but it can be noisy when fighting for scraps of food with carrion crows and other kites.
Its voice is an insistent, thin piping raised in complaint. The call is quite distinctive once recognised.
The kite is relatively weak for a bird of its size and is unable to open the carcass of a sheep but has to wait for the bill of the powerful raven or the jaws of a fox to do this first.
A red kites closest relative is the Black Kite (Milvus Migrans) which, although similar in overall appearance, lacks its beautiful chestnut colouring.
Red Kites and Black Kites live together in countries like Spain, and even cross breed.
This black kite image was extracted from a dvd kindly given to me by Jon Stanley of Crewe, and taken in Hong Kong amongst the sky scrapers - a short video taken by Jon will be on the site soon too.