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Child hospitalised after red kite attack in Berkshire

The Times today reported on a series of increasingly vicious attacks on both adults and children in the market town of Henley in Berkshire.

Following the successful reintroduction of the bird in the Chiltern Hills in the 1980s their numbers have now swarmed to over 10,000, a figure many deem to be unsustainable.

In one attack in Henley last month a two year old was eating a biscuit outside a school when the adult red kite snatched it out of his hands, cutting his hand so severely he required hospital treatment.

Hospital staff told the child’s mother that injuries from red kites were becoming more and more common.

Another local resident, who had also been attacked by red kites, complained that it is “very scary having such a large bird at such close quarters. When I mentioned it on our neighbourhood forum I couldn’t believe how many other people have had similar experiences recently.”

In 2016 a three year old girl, Avar Edgar-Francis, was left with deep cuts to the back of her head after being attacked by the vicious bird of prey at her own birthday party close to Henley. Her mother, Debbie Francis, said of the attack: "She was completely hysterical. It was such a shock and she is now petrified every time she sees a big bird in the sky."

Red Kites have a wingspan of up to 165cm. The attacks raise serious questions on what other, even larger birds of prey, might be capable of once their population numbers soar to these levels and they reach maturity.

In Norfolk for example there are plans to reintroduce White Tailed Sea Eagles at Ken Hill close to the Norfolk coast, a popular seaside destination for family holidays. Each adult bird requires 3kg for food a day, which will have to come from the local wildlife and livestock that live there.

[Norfolk beaches are a favorite for young children to visit]

Across the UK birds of prey numbers have increased dramatically in recent years and there are now well over 250,000 in the UK. In the Peak District alone, according to the 2018 BTO bird breeding survey, birds of prey have rocketed. Buzzards increased over 1250% between 2005 and 2018.

It is not just children who are being attacked but these drastic increase in numbers are causing untold damage to livestock, smaller songbirds and even pet dogs.

Fashion model Kate Hillman was stunned when a red kite swooped on her five-year-old dog Vinnie as they walked in fields near her home in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

‘The claws went out and it tried to pick up my dog,’ said Kate, whose pet weighs 4½ lb. ‘The bird was huge — about five times the size of Vinnie.’

Another resident, Paul Sargeantson, a builder and smallholder in Oxfordshire, has had all his free-range chicks and ducklings taken by kites. They even attack the meat from his barbecue as soon as it gets on the plate.

He says: ‘The unfortunate truth about the red kite is that they have a voracious appetite for a great range of live prey, such as mice, voles, frogs, leverets [young hares] and the chicks of all ground-nesting birds, including our beloved and endangered lapwings, skylarks and many others.

Conservationist groups have claimed that kites, indeed many birds of prey, are not a danger to humans, livestock, wildlife or smaller endangered songbirds. The reality is anything but and raises serious questions as to how this escalating situation is going to be managed in the future.


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