I am indeed very fortunate in having a wide array of wildlife within walking distance of my residence in Bandon, Co. Cork. I have appreciated this all the more during this difficult period. The silver lining of this lockdown is that it has allowed me to discover some of the best places to see the local wildlife, including foxes, hares, buzzards, otters and even peregrine falcons in the town itself! I have also increased my interest in photography, as I love to capture memorable encounters to show people what we potentially have on our doorstep.

However, nothing could prepare me for what I encountered just over a week ago. I was observing a pair of buzzards soaring above my back garden, which has now become a very common sight in this area. Suddenly, another raptor, which had a very distinctive forked tail, came into view. As someone who has for many years regularly visited the Welsh countryside, I immediately recognised the bird as a red kite! After the brief sighting, I ventured up the road from my house where I was hoping to photograph this rarely seen bird. With a bit of luck and patience, I captured an image of the red kite in flight, proof that this exciting and rare encounter occurred! I have since submitted the sighting and photograph to the Golden Eagle Trust who monitor the distribution and movements of all raptor species in Ireland.

Red Kite - West Cork
Red Kite – West Cork

Red kites were once a very common sight throughout the Irish countryside. However, they became extinct by the middle of the 18th century due to persecution, poisoning and clearance of woodland. In 2007, a reintroduction programme was initiated by the Golden Eagle Trust and National Parks and Wildlife Service to restore the red kite population in Ireland. Between 2007 and 2011, 156 red kites were imported from Wales and released in counties Wicklow, Dublin and Fingal. While the project faced difficulty initially due to persecution and poisoning of individuals, the population has since stabilised. Several pairs have since successfully raised chicks, signalling the return of this beautiful bird of prey to the Irish Countryside.

Red kites have since dispersed and have been seen in many counties including Cork, Waterford, Kerry, Sligo and Antrim, but such sightings outside the main reintroduction sites are still considered rare. However, it is likely that it is only a matter of time before these magnificent birds become a common sight throughout the country. Up until 6 years ago, buzzards were still considered to be a very rare sight in the south and south-west of Ireland. Now, buzzards are by far one of our most common raptor species thanks to increased protection and conservation efforts in recent years.

Be sure to keep your eyes to the sky and report any sightings of red kites in your local area to the Golden Eagle Trust!


Written by Conor Rowlands

Website | + posts

Caretaker of the Cork Nature Network website