The red-tailed kite (5)

Scotland's Birds of Prey, Part 5: the red-tailed kite

Although Scotland is perhaps most famous - especially amongst falconers - for its peregrine falcon, it may surprise you to know that Scotland is home to more than 20 varieties of bird of prey. In this series, we'll introduce you to some of the birds of prey that you can see across Scotland.

We started the series with the UK's most common bird of prey in part 1: the buzzard. We've also looked at the the kestrel, the sparrowhawk and the tawny owl. In this post, we're going to look at the red kite. 

The Red Kite

LindaWright poster image of red kite

The Red Kite is arguably Scotland's most recognisable bird of prey, with it striking, fan-shaped tail and glorious russet colouring.

The kite's effortless aerial displays - sometimes performed by groups of 20 or 30 or even more - are a special sight to behold. With its agile wings and rudder-like tail, the red kite has amazing manoeuvrability, giving its name to the toy kite (in 1664!) and making it one of our most watchable and elegant hunters.

Red kit numbers

Once the most familiar bird of prey in Britain, kites were persecuted as vermin by the 19th century and all but exterminated. Just in the last 30 years, in a joint RSPB/Nature Conservancy Council project, Swedish red kites were re-introduced to several sites across the country and there are now thought to be around 300 pairs in Scotland.

Hunting technique

Red kites are a medium-sized bird of prey with a varied diet that includes small mammals (voles, mice, young rabbits), worms and beetles but mostly features carrion. Kites are commonly seen scavenging on dead game birds and sheep carcasses and it is this natural behaviour that continues to make them vulnerable to illegal killing through poisoning.

When and where and how to see kites in Scotland:

  • Flocks of red kites tend to circle together in spring or autumn
  • Communal roosts in secluded woodland during the winter months 
  • Feeding stations across Scotland, including Argaty in Perthshire and Tollie in the Highlands. The flock image, above, was taken at the Dumfries and Galloway site near Laurieston.

Press play to hear more about the red kite and its call, from Radio 4's Tweet of the Day

Have you seen (or heard) kites in Scotland? Was it at Argaty? Do you have a favourite bird of prey? Or a story to tell about a bird of prey? Please leave a comment below - we'd love to hear from you about this. 

Want to know more?

We've now covered just two of the 20+ birds of prey that can be found in Scotland.

In future posts, we'll look at more (including owls, eagles, kites and hawks), so please subscribe to The Scottish Countryman's blog if you want to follow this series.



  3. Martin, Brian P.: Birds of prey of the British Isles (1992) David & Charles
  4. Thompson, D., Rley, H., and Etheridge, B., Scotland's Birds of Prey (2010) Lomond Books


  1. Page: Attribution: (c) Linda Wright Science Photo Library - Image No. 548346
  2. Page: Attribution: By Calum Murray
  3. Page: Attribution: Credit: REX

Links to other posts in this series

  1. Buzzard
  2. Kestrel
  3. Sparrowhawk
  4. Tawny Owl
  5. Red-tailed kite
  6. Merlin
  7. White-tailed eagle

Want to know what others thought about their bird of prey experience at Inspired Falconry? Read the reviews of Steve and his team.

If you'd like to experience birds of prey up close, why not book a Bird of Prey Experience with us at our base near Crail?