Country diary: The red kite’s kill falls with a thud in front of me – Rights History
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Country diary: The red kite’s kill falls with a thud in front of me

Stansted Park, West Sussex: It’s a grisly sight, and a reminder that these notoriously unfussy eaters will hunt when they have to

When I heard high-pitched mewing calls drifting across the ripening wheatfields, I raised my binoculars expecting to see buzzards riding the thermals. But as the distant specks came into focus, there was no mistaking the distinctive forked-tail silhouettes of two red kites, languidly soaring as they scanned the ground for carrion and live prey. Red kites are becoming a more regular sight above West Sussex and Hampshire, but they’re still vastly outnumbered by their buzzard brethren, so it’s always a thrill to spot these elegant raptors.

By the time I’d skirted the fields, the birds had disappeared from view. As I followed an estate road through mixed woodland, a wood pigeon broke cover with a clatter of wings, and up ahead something tumbled through the canopy, landing on the tarmac with a dull thud. Larch trees loomed overhead, and as I gazed up through the branches, I glimpsed the rufous underparts and long, angled wings of a red kite sailing past.

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