Red kite (Milvus Milvus)

Identity card
Wingspan: 150-180 cm
Plumage (adults): Multicoloured (reddish brown, black, and white, with light grey head)
Flight silhouette: Unmistakeable thanks to the long wings and long forked tail, which is narrower at the junction with the body. It flies with extraordinary agility, often opening and twisting its tail
Environment: It alternates hill or low-mountain countryside with vast open spaces and woods
Nest: On trees or (more seldom) rocks. The nest is made of twigs, pieces of cloth, and also plastic or other waste.
Diet: carrion, garbage, small mammals (especially mice and voles), worms, insects, fishes and small birds
Eggs: 1-3
Presence: Resident in southern Europe, migratory in central-northern Europe

Distribution and status
Red kites are endemic to the western Palearctic, with the European population of 19,000–25,000 pairs encompassing 95% of its global breeding range. In the IUCN -  International Union for the Conservation of Nature - Red List (2008), this species is classified as near threatened, because its population is decreasing at a relatively fast pace; it is likely to be soon included in a higher   danger category.
Some key populations in particular, such as the Spanish (1,900-2,600 pairs), French (3,000-3,800) and German ones (10,500-14,000), are rapidly declining.
In some European areas, this species is instead growing, for instance in Switzerland (1,200-1,500 pairs), or starkly growing: the Swedish population consisted of 30-50 pairs in the 1970s, whereas it exceeded 2,000 pairs in 2012.

In Italy
In Italy, the red kite is classified as endangered in the Red List of breeding birds.
This species was once widespread in several central and southern Italian areas, but it progressively declined, especially in the second half of the 20th century. It almost completely disappeared from central Italy, where only a small population survived on the Tolfa Mountains in upper Lazio, and was preserved only in southern regions.
425-515 pairs are currently estimated to live in the country: about 50% of them (210-230 pairs) live in Basilicata, and a significant colony is settled in Abruzzo (70-100 pairs).
In southern Tuscany, this species was reintroduced thanks to two consecutive LIFE projects (, carried out by Unione dei Comuni Montani Amiata Grossetana (an association of mountain municipalities), with the support of Enel Distribuzione S.p.A. In the framework of the projects, 106 juveniles originating from Corsica and Switzerland were released in the region: a new population could thus settle, consisting (as of 2014) of about 18-20 breeding pairs and over 70 overwintering birds.

Poison and other threats
The red kite is a sort of indicator of the use of poison, as it feeds on small preys or carrion, and can therefore easily spot and eat poison baits or carcasses.
The impact of poison on this species is well known in other European countries such as Spain and United Kingdom, but not in Italy.
Anyway, it is certain that the use of poison represents a serious threat for these birds. In the framework of the LIFE Save the Flyers Project (, five red kites had been released in the Gola della Rossa and Frasassi Regional Park (Marche) and monitored through satellite radio: one of the birds was found dead in 2013, 8 months after release, poisoned by a mixture of drugs in Umbria (Province of Perugia).
The species is also threatened by electrocution, wind farms, poaching (shooting), and indirect poisoning caused by pesticides or rodenticides

  • Immagine 1
  • Red kite
  • Immagine 2
  • Juvenile red kite ready to be released in southern Tuscany (upper Albegna valley, Grosseto)
  • Immagine 3
  • Juvenile red kites in the nest in upper Albegna valley (Grosseto)
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