Most people love the red kites that have been wheeling, swooping, mewing and whistling over our town increasingly over the past few years.
To watch one soar over red brick Reading can be so soothing and gives us a really good close look at nature in beak and claw. Watching these graceful scavengers on the wing can provide the relaxing air reminiscent of the sort of pleasure there is in stroking a friendly cat.
Some people feed these birds. This can be a little controversial as they are a wild animal and not used to human contact. If you do decide to feed them, then maybe just do so in winter or during nesting time (March-April) when food is scarce or more is needed.
Here are a few tips and facts about feeding red kites.
- It may be a good idea to tell the neighbours first.
- Do not feed them cooked or prepared meat.
- Bones, skins, feathers and fur is their usual diet!
- Feed them in the late afternoon, giving them every chance to feed themselves first.
- Only feed them occasionally so it’s not habit-forming.
- Don’t leave excess meat lying around, because rats love it.
Whether you decide to watch and listen to them or feed them, they are the largest bird you will see in an urban environment and we should just enjoy their perhaps incongruous presence in the modern town. Or maybe they are not so out of place, for when the sunlight catches them just right, especially under the wings, they really do share the colour of the real Reading; that wonderful rusty, russet hue borne by our baked bricks of clay, still standing strong, long after the grey concrete has decayed and been removed.
Matthew Farrall has been a protected species officer for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.