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Widespread supplementary feeding in domestic gardens explains the return of reintroduced Red Kites Milvus milvus to an urban area

Orros, M. E. and Fellowes, M. D. E. ORCID: (2015) Widespread supplementary feeding in domestic gardens explains the return of reintroduced Red Kites Milvus milvus to an urban area. Ibis, 157 (2). pp. 230-238. ISSN 1474-919X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12237


Reintroductions are used worldwide to mitigate biodiversity loss. One prominent case is a charismatic raptor of conservation concern, the Red Kite Milvus milvus. This species has been reintroduced across the UK over the last 25 years following its near extinction after centuries of persecution. The species was not expected to recolonize urban areas; its historical association with human settlements is attributed to scavenging on human waste and refuse, a resource now greatly reduced on the streets of modern Western cities. However, the species has become a common day-time visitor to a large conurbation centred on the town of Reading, southern England, approximately 20 km from the first English reintroduction site. Given a near-absence of breeding and roost sites, we investigated foraging opportunities and habitat associations that might explain use by Red Kites of this urban area. Surveys of discarded human foods and road-kill suggested that these could support at most 13−29 kites/day. Face-to-face surveys of a cross-section of residents revealed that 4.5% (equivalent to 4349 households) provided supplementary food for kites. Using estimates of per-household resource provision from another study, we calculated that this level is potentially sufficient to provision 142−320 kites, a substantial proportion of the total estimated to visit the conurbation each day (between 140 and 440). Road transects found positive associations between Red Kites and residential areas. We therefore suggest that the decision made by thousands of individuals to provide supplementary food for Red Kites is the primary factor explaining their day-time abundance in this urban area.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:38787


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